Helping Two Halves Make a Whole
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) In Indiana
Getting pregnant isn’t always an easy process. To successfully fertilize an egg, sperm must go through a long journey from the vagina to the fallopian tubes. Sometimes, the sperm need a little help to get closer to their destination. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, is a process that shortens this journey to improve the sperm’s chances of reaching an egg and fertilizing it.
When Is IUI Recommended?
IUI is often considered to be the first step in a fertility treatment protocol. There are a variety of scenarios in which a fertility specialist may recommend IUI, including:
- A female reproductive issue, such as ovulation issues, excess cervical mucus, endometriosis, or sperm allergy
- Male factor fertility issues
- When using donated sperm
The Benefits of IUI
Some of the benefits of IUI include:
- In comparison to IVF, it is a low-tech procedure
- It is a minimally-invasive procedure that can be completed within 20 minutes or less and does not require anesthesia
- It can increase your chances of successfully getting pregnant, both by helping the sperm in its journey and by accurately coordinating with your ovulation cycle
- It makes it easy to use sperm from a partner or a donor
- It can be useful for patients who have mild or unexplained infertility
What is IUI?
To understand the IUI process, it’s helpful to understand how conception happens naturally.
In natural conception, the penis ejaculates semen into the vagina, close to the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. On average, a single emission of semen can contain between 40 million and 150 million sperm.
The sperm must then swim through the uterus to the fallopian tubes. If timed correctly during ovulation, the ovaries will release a single mature egg into the fallopian tubes around this time, where it will meet the sperm. At this point, only a few hundred sperm have successfully completed the journey. The remaining sperm cells then attempt to penetrate through the egg’s outer wall until one successfully enters the egg, triggering fertilization.
In IUI, semen from a partner or sperm donor is specially prepared into a concentrated sample containing healthy, strong sperm. The sperm are then deposited directly into the uterus, thereby shortening the sperm’s journey. IUI is often performed during the female patient’s natural ovulation cycle, although fertility medications are sometimes recommended.
By making the journey a little shorter and depositing a higher number of sperm, IUI increases the chances of successfully getting pregnant.
The IUI Process: A Step-by-Step Overview
IUI can be a great option for some patients. In many cases, fertility doctors will recommend trying IUI before moving on to more advanced fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization. Although every patient’s fertility journey is unique, the IUI procedure can typically be broken down into five basic steps:
Natural Ovulation vs. Ovulation Induction
The first step of IUI is to decide whether to have the procedure coordinated with your natural ovulation cycle or to stimulate ovulation using hormone medication. These medications can be used to trigger the ovaries into releasing a mature egg and coordinate it with the sperm deposit.
If using sperm from a partner, a semen sample is typically provided by the partner through masturbation. Whether this is performed in the office or at home, the semen sample must be collected into a sterile container. If using sperm from a donor, the sperm will come from a frozen semen sample that has already been prepared for use. The sample will be gently thawed out before being used for IUI.
Once available, fresh semen samples go through a process known as sperm washing, which isolates the sperm from the rest of the seminal fluid. The result is a concentrated sample containing a high number of healthy sperm.
The doctor coordinates with the patient to perform the IUI procedure at the time of ovulation, whether you’re doing it naturally or using fertility medications. This helps to ensure that the sperm and egg are both in the right place at the right time.
When the time is right, the doctor uses a catheter to deposit the concentrated semen sample into the uterus. For the patient, the experience is similar to a regular pelvic exam and causes only minimal discomfort. After the semen has been transferred into the uterus, the patient remains in a lying-down position for several minutes. Once this is done, the patient can leave and resume their daily activities.
See if IUI Is Right For You
When it comes to fertility, no two paths are the same. You deserve a fertility care team that will help design a fertility treatment plan that is as unique as you are. If you’re interested in exploring options such as IUI and seeing if it’s right for you, schedule a consultation with one of the fertility specialists at Indiana Fertility Institute.