Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – Overview, Procedure, Uses & Risks

Intrauterine insemination, previously known as artificial insemination, is an alternative fertility procedure. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a good alternative for couples having a hard time becoming pregnant. This procedure can be carried out without fertility medication.

If medication is used, the patient should begin taking the fertility drugs before the doctor performs the procedure. So, if you are new to the world of fertility treatment, check out this guide on IUI, which is amongst the earliest treatments for infertility in recent times.

What is IUI, and How Does it Work?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a simple procedure for fertility treatment. While conceiving naturally, the sperms need to travel from the vagina to the cervix, then to the uterus, and finally to the fallopian tubes. But, in the IUI treatment, sperms are placed straight away into the woman’s uterus, so they are kept closer to the egg.

In the IUI procedure, the sperms are placed into the uterus during the ovulation period in a woman’s cycle, thus helping the sperm get near the egg. This significantly reduces the time and distance a sperm takes to travel, making it simpler to fertilize the egg. You may take fertility medications that stimulate ovulation before the insemination procedure.

Your partner’s or a donor’s sperm is collected. It undergoes a process known as “sperm washing,” which gathers an intake of healthy sperm out from semen. A woman gets pregnant when sperm fertilises the egg and the fertilised egg implants in the uterine lining.

IUI is a minimal procedure that can be less expensive than other methods of fertility treatments. This procedure can increase the chances of pregnancy for specific couples who have earlier had difficulty conceiving.

Who Can Get the IUI Procedure?

Compared to in vitro fertilization, an IUI procedure is a more affordable and non-invasive treatment. Many couples may need to go for an IUI before going for an IVF if it’s required. For some couples, IUI could be the only treatment needed to achieve pregnancy.

An IUI procedure can be performed usually in the below-stated scenarios:

  • Mildendometriosis
  • Cervical mucus or other cervix problems
  • Unexplained fertility
  • Reduced sperm motility
  • Ejaculation or erection issues
  • Lower sperm count
  • When a couple wishes to avoid giving a genetic condition to the child
  • PCOS – by inducing ovulation
An IUI procedure may not be useful for the following situations:
  • Women with moderate or severe endometriosis
  • Women having or had numerous pelvic infections
  • Men who do not produce any sperms
  • Women that have critical fallopian tube illness
  • Women who have had both the fallopian tubes blocked or removed
  In cases where IUI is not preferred, a further treatment, such as IVF, may be beneficial.

IUI Procedure: What to Expect?

Sometimes an IUI is done without any medication – a woman ovulates naturally- gets the sperm placed at the clinic while the ovulation period continues. The IUI procedure may require several hospital visits when you are on your period.

Your doctor may prescribe you medicines to stimulate ovaries to release mature eggs. Ovulation with more than 1 egg increases the likelihood of getting pregnant. Nearly a week after you start taking medicines, you will have an ultrasound and bloodwork to check whether the eggs have matured.

Based on the test results, your doctor will express when you are ovulating and ask you and your partner to visit the clinic. Generally, the IUI procedure is conducted after 10 to 16 days of taking medication. The male partner will be providing a semen sample on the day of the procedure, or the semen will be thawed in case of donor sperm.

Instantly, the sperms will be taken to a lab and washed. In this process, a few techniques are used to remove dead sperms and other debris while healthy and motile sperms are kept.

An IUI procedure is usually a painless one – here is how it goes:
  • You will lie down on an exam table, and your doctor will slide down a thin and flexible tube through your cervix into the uterus. The procedure will take 5-10 minutes.
  • The sperm will be passed through the cervix and put in the uterus through the thin tube.
  • You will stay on the exam table for 10 to 30 minutes after the IUI procedure.
  • You may experience slight uterine cramping or vaginal bleeding after the procedure.
  • You do not need anaesthesia for the IUI procedure.
  • You can take the pregnancy test after 15-16 days of the IUI procedure.

Risks of IUI Procedure:

  • Following the IUI procedure, there is a slight risk of infection. But since your doctor will be using sterile instruments, infection is highly unlikely.
  • There is a risk of multiple pregnancies if medicines are used to induce ovulation. To prevent too many eggs from being released, your doctor will try balancing the type and quantity of medication.
  • When the ovaries overreact to fertility medications, a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome develops.
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can cause fluid build-up in the chest and abdomen, kidney problems, blood clots, and ovarian twisting in extremely rare cases.
If you are taking fertility medicine for IUI and you experience any of the below symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Increase in the size of the abdomen
  • Extreme pelvic or abdominal pain
You should keep in mind that success rates for IUI decreases for elderly women and the women who have not obtained pregnancy after three cycles of IUI.

IUI is the best low-risk alternative for certain couples trying to conceive. If you have been trying to conceive for a long time and wish to know fertility options, then visit Dr Manish Banker from Banker IVF. Dr Banker and his team of experts will help you achieve pregnancy through IUI or other effective fertility treatments based on what you need.

Read: Types of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ARTS)
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