Getting Pregnant and Assisted Reproduction: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, and infertility problems, such as female infertility or male infertility are the cause, then you may consider intrauterine insemination (IUI), an infertility treatment that can help to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Also referred to as artificial insemination, IUI is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that can provide couples with pregnancy success. But what is IUI and what is the rate of success associated with this assisted reproductive technology procedure?
What is IUI?
The IUI process involves inserting a very thin, flexible catheter into the woman’s cervix in order to inject washed sperm into the uterus. The sperm used in IUI may be either that of the male partner or be donated by a sperm donor.
IUI should be performed within 6 hours either before the onset of ovulation or following the onset of ovulation, depending on the cause of infertility in the couple’s cause. If male infertility is causing problems getting pregnant, then IUI is performed following the onset of ovulation, as this is believed to increase the chance of getting pregnant.
In order to increase IUI success, fertility drugs are administered at the onset of the menstrual cycle. This is because fertility drugs stimulate the ovaries in order to produce mature eggs for fertilization.
When the timing of intrauterine insemination is dependent on an hCG injection, IUI usually takes place between 24 to 48 hours after the injection. Typical timing of an IUI treatment is 36 hours after an hCG injection. If two intrauterine insemination cycles are scheduled, they are spaced a minimum of 12 hours apart, between 24 and 48 hours following the hCG injection.
The actual IUI process takes less than one hour, however a woman can be on fertility drugs for about a week prior to ovulation.
In the case that fertility drugs are not administered in conjunction with IUI, doctors will base the timing of the procedure on natural surges in LH. In this case, a single IUI is performed at 36 hours after the surge, but in some cases it is performed at 24 hours after the hormone surge occurs.
What Types of Fertility Problems Does IUI Best Treat?
Intrauterine insemination can be beneficial in cases of both female infertility and male infertility.
IUI is especially helpful if a sperm count problem is the cause of infertility. IUI can also help increase the chances of getting pregnant if the female partner has a cervical mucus blockage, or if sperm allergy or low sperm motility is causing infertility. However, ICSI is the best ART procedure for a severely low sperm count.
In addition, IUI helps with unexplained infertility, and in cases when couples fail to get pregnant after trying to do so through sexual intercourse.
However, there are certain requirements for both the female partner and the male partner in this process.
A woman must have a normal ovulation cycle, open fallopian tubes and a normal uterine cavity in order to undergo artificial insemination.
A man must have a relatively normal sperm count, as well as normal sperm mobility and sperm morphology.
Success of Intrauterine Insemination
The pregnancy success rate associated with IUI depends on the cause of infertility, as well as the women’s age.
On average, the success of intrauterine insemination ranges from just under 6% to as high as 26% per cycle. The lower percentage reflects the IUI pregnancy success rate when one follicle is used and the higher percentage reflects the IUI pregnancy success rate when multiple follicles are used. Usually no more than 3 to 4 follicles are used in order to decrease the risk of multiple births, which can lead to pregnancy complications.
In addition, women usually have a higher chance of getting pregnant with IUI if the assisted reproductive technology procedure is used in conjunction with fertility drugs.
There are no national statistics available with regard to live birth rates associated with IUI.
The Cost of IUI
On average, this ART procedure costs between £500 and £1000, depending on the facilities provided by the fertility clinic. This price may or not include the cost of fertility drugs, ultrasound monitoring, hormone treatments, donor sperms or other supplementary treatments. Using donor sperm increases the price of intrauterine insemination.
Typically, a woman undergoes 3 to 6 cycles of IUI before successfully getting pregnant.
If your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of IUI, you will have to pay the entire cost of this ART procedure up front.
The Benefits Associated with IUI
IUI is generally a painless procedure, and is usually no more painful than a routine Pap smear. While some women experience cramping after undergoing IUI, this is usually associated with ovulation, and not the procedure itself. This is because the catheter is not felt because the cervix is already slightly open due to ovulation.
In addition, IUI is a less invasive and less expensive assisted reproduction procedure, especially when compared to in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Also, some individuals prefer this infertility treatment because fertilisation occurs naturally inside the body.
The Drawbacks Associated with IUI
Adversely, there are certain drawbacks associated with intrauterine insemination.
Because timing is so crucial in this assisted reproductive technology procedure, a woman must be available to travel to her doctor’s office at the exact moment of ovulation. By the same token, the male partner must be able to produce sperm promptly by masturbating into a cup.
After undergoing intrauterine insemination, your doctor will advise you as to how long you should abstain from sexual intercourse and whether any special rest is required.
Visit our forum to talk to other women undergoing IUI treatments.
For help in producing healthy sperm for an IUI, find out more about FertilAid for Men.