Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is an alternative fertility method if you're having trouble getting pregnant. The procedure was previously known as artificial insemination, and you can do it without fertility medication. In case medication is used, intake of the fertility drugs should start before the doctor does the procedure.
During IUI, the healthy sperms are washed in a special way and placed directly into the uterus using a thin tube. This brings them close to the egg to enhance the success rate of fertilization.
Who Can Use the IUI Procedure?
IUI is a non-invasive and more affordable procedure compared to more invasive fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization. It is common in situations like:
- Unexplained infertility
- Low sperm count
- Decreased sperm motility
- Mild endometriosis
- When a couple wants to avoid passing a genetic condition to the child using donor sperm if the male partner has a known genetic disorder.
- A single woman who wants to conceive
- Issues with the cervix or cervical mucus
- Problems with erection or ejaculation
The IUI Process
The IUI treatment depends on your cycle and should start on the first day of your period. Your doctor will use ultrasound and bloodwork to monitor your menstrual cycle for about 12-14 days. This is to ensure that there's an egg maturing correctly, ready for ovulation.
When an egg is mature, it breaks free from the ovary and begins its journey through the fallopian tubes for fertilization. The monitoring leads to the actual IUI, which happens on ovulation day. Your sperm donor or male partner provides a semen sample that is 'washed' to prepare it for IUI. Healthy sperm is picked from the seminal fluid and inserted into your uterus using a thin catheter, leaving fertilization to happen as it would in a natural cycle. It swims toward and hopefully penetrates the egg.
Fast Facts About the Success Rates of IUI
The success rate of IUI depends on several factors.
You and your partner's diagnosis. A doctor may diagnose several issues that determine the success rate of the IUI procedure.
- Unexplained fertility means that you have a good egg count, a healthy uterus, open fallopian tubes, and a good sperm count under all normal conditions. Your success rate if you’re in this category is 7% to 10% per cycle. If you combine the treatment with fertility drugs, the success rates can increase to 15% to 25%.
- A single open fallopian tube means you have one blocked and one unblocked fallopian tube. While pregnancy can happen, the success rate depends on the blockage's location on the blocked tube. When the blockage is closest to the ovary, the success rate of IUI is 11.7%. When the blockage is closest to the uterus, the success rate is as high as 38.1%.
- If your partner has male factor infertility such as an abnormal sperm count, morphology or motility, or blocked vas deferens, you can benefit from IUI. The procedure enhances the process of natural conception by putting the sperm closer to the egg. Male factor infertility means that the sperms are normal or are on the borderline and can create a pregnancy. IUI's success rate in male factor infertility cases is 16.9%.
Your age. Age is a crucial factor in determining the success rate of the IUI procedure. The conception rates drop significantly as you progress in age due to decreasing egg quality. You may require many repeated IUI cycles to conceive.
- Under 35 years, the IUI success rate is 13%
- 35 to 37 years - 10% success rate
- 38 to 40 years - 9% success rate
- Over 40 years - 3 to 9% success rate
The timing of the procedure. After the doctor determines when ovulation will occur, they will schedule the IUI. The entire process is well planned. The doctor tells you when to take medication and when your partner should provide a sperm sample. Delays in any part of the process can decrease the success rate of conception.
IUI has the lowest success rates in situations where.
- You have moderate to severe endometriosis
- Your male partner has a low sperm count (unless you wish to use a sperm donor)
- You have severe fallopian tube disease
- You have had multiple pelvic infections
In situations where IUI is not applicable, another suitable treatment you can use is IVF. Discuss the options with your physician for the best course of action.
Final Thoughts. Intrauterine insemination is a non-invasive fertility treatment that can be successful in some situations. It’s a good starting point for you if you have ovulatory dysfunction or unexplained infertility. It's also effective if your partner has mild male factor infertility. The procedure's success rate depends on many factors, mainly your age, diagnosis, and timing.