Risks and Benefits of IUI
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a popular assisted reproductive technology used by couples struggling with infertility. While there are many benefits associated with the procedure, IUI is not without risks. Couples are advised to consult with a fertility specialist, conduct their own research, and weigh their options carefully before embarking upon any course of infertility intervention.
During the IUI procedure sperm are inserted directly into a woman's uterus in order to facilitate fertilization of an egg. For this reason IUI is also casually know as "artificial insemination." Sometimes treatment consists only of IUI, however in many cases fertility specialists advise a treatment protocol of IUI in conjunction with fertility drugs such as Clomid or gonadotropins. These fertility drugs stimulate or boost ovulation, the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovaries with the potential of being fertilized. The success rates of IUI improve when combined with fertility medications.
Benefits of IUI
When compared to other fertility treatments, IUI offers several benefits:
- Pain-free for the male and female
- Fairly simple procedure
- By placing sperm high in the female reproductive tract, more sperm gain entrance into the fallopian tube to meet an egg
- Significantly less expensive than its counterparts, such as in vitro fertilization
- Ability to super-ovulate the ovaries and thus overcome female ovulation dysfunctions
- Helps overcome mild male infertility factor
- IUI in conjunction with Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate): Compared to other fertility drugs, Clomid has a low risk of side effects such as multiple pregnancies and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Clomid is taken in pill form rather than injection, is relatively inexpensive, and has an 80% success rate of stimulating ovulation.
- One well-timed IUI (just prior to or at ovulation time) can be sufficient to get pregnant
Risks of IUI
- Extra stimulation of the ovaries by fertility drugs can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), wherein the ovaries are over-stimulated and as a result fill with fluid and over-expand. When this fluid is released during ovulation, serious complications can arise
- Use of fertility drugs increases the risk of multiple pregnancies/births, which can be hazardous for both mother and baby. Among the risks for the pregnancy and for mothers are miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, increased chance of developing preeclampsia (also known as toxemia or pregnancy induced hypertension). Risks to the baby include premature birth resulting in underdeveloped and weak lungs/major organs, risk of cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and more.
Reducing IUI Risks
- Use of low doses of fertility medications whenever possible
- Be aware of which fertility specialists and clinics take an aggressive vs. a moderate approach to infertility treatment
- Careful monitoring of hormone levels and size of the ovaries throughout pregnancy
- Good prenatal care