Infertility is a lot more common than many people think, with 9% and 11% of men and women respectively reporting difficulty getting pregnant. However, people in this situation aren’t without the ability to get pregnant. They just need a little help.
People can choose to use fertility medication or to try other methods for getting pregnant such as intrauterine insemination. Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, can help boost your chance of pregnancy.
If you’re interested in learning more about an IUI procedure, this guide is for you. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this procedure.
What Is an IUI Procedure?
An IUI procedure is a type of artificial insemination method that can help increase the pregnancy rate for some couples. In this method, doctors take healthy sperm from a man’s seminal fluid, conduct a sperm wash, and concentrate the sperm. The sperm are then placed directly in the woman’s uterus during the IUI procedure.
These sperm can be can from the male partner in the relationship. If the male partner has low or absent sperm counts, or a same-sex female couple would like to conceive, they can use sperm from a sperm donor.
Regardless of where the sperm sample comes from, doctors place the sperm directly into the uterus during an IUI. This is done at the time of ovulation so that when the ovaries release an egg, the sperm is there to fertilize it.
IUI procedures have a success rate of about 15-20% in same-sex female couples or 4-8% in infertile couples trying to conceive when used with clomiphene or letrozole. It can be lower in patients with low egg quality, age over 40, or endometriosis. Since IUI is easy to do and minimally invasive, it’s often a first-line option for those who are struggling to get pregnant.
Why People Use IUIs
There are several different reasons why people use IUIs. A few of the most common reasons include:
- Unexplained infertility in women
- Men with a low or absent sperm counts who need a donor to provide a semen sample for pregnancy
- Women who produce cervical mucus that is too thick and prevents sperm from reaching their eggs
- Women who do not ovulate, such as those with PCOS
- Same-sex female couples
Remember, there are many other reasons why a couple may choose to use an IUI procedure. Speaking with your doctor can give you a better idea of whether or not this is a viable option for you.
Setting Procedure Expectations
Okay, so now you know what an IUI procedure is. But what should you expect in the treatment? Is it scary and does it require a lot of prep or recovery time?
Let’s take a look at what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Before Your IUI Procedure
Before your IUI, you’ll start by visiting a doctor for a fertility evaluation and speaking with him or her about your infertility issues. He or she will ask questions about your medical history to discover whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure.
If you are, your doctor will schedule your treatment cycle, with the final appointment being the IUI appointment. Then, to prepare for the procedure, you may need to take ovulation-stimulating drugs such as Letrozole or Clomid to help you produce more eggs.
Couples who don’t want to take medication may also have an IUI that is timed by ultrasounds and a simple over-the-counter ovulation kit. This is common in LGBTQ couples who want to have a baby but don’t want the risk of having multiple births.
During the IUI Procedure
You’ve taken your medications, have undergone monitoring to check the development of your eggs, and spoken to your doctor. Now, the big day is here!
Typically, your treatment will be scheduled for the day of your planned ovulation. Male sperm can survive in your fallopian tubes for up to five days, so an IUI can be done before, during, or after ovulation (within 24 hours).
On the day of your procedure, the doctor will get a semen sample from your partner or from a sperm donor. Then, they’ll prepare the sperm which takes about an hour.
To prepare the sperm, an andrologist (lab technician who works with sperm) will wash and concentrate the sperm. The doctor will then load the syringe and intrauterine catheter with the sperm. The IUI catheter will then be placed through the cervix and into the uterus where the sperm will be released.
The insemination feels very similar to a pap smear and only takes a few minutes. You don’t need to take anesthetics or any other medication because there is minimal to no discomfort during the procedure. That makes it a quick and easy process!
After an IUI Procedure
After your IUI procedure is completed, you may have some mild cramping. You may also experience a bit of spotting. Don’t panic, however, as these are normal side effects of the procedure.
In addition to these side effects, some women may develop an infection. This is very rare, however, and can be easily solved with antibiotics.
Apart from watching for infection and side effects, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for signs of pregnancy. That includes morning sickness and absent menstruation.
You will have a pregnancy test done in about two weeks at your doctor’s office. The test should show whether or not the IUI procedure was successful.
If the procedure fails, you can always restart the process and have the IUI performed within a couple of weeks. In the event the IUI procedure fails a second time, your doctor may suggest other methods of getting pregnant such as an In vitro fertilization or IVF procedure.
Schedule an IUI Procedure Today
An IUI procedure, although it might seem scary at first, is actually a straightforward process. And, now that you know what to expect at every stage of the process, you’ll be more comfortable throughout it!
If you’re ready to take the plunge and book an IUI procedure to help you and your partner get pregnant, we can help. Schedule an appointment with our team’s doctor’s office today.