IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. It’s a fertility treatment where specially prepared sperm are prepared, and then placed directly into the womb during ovulation.
IUI is a process that puts healthy sperm directly into the uterus. IUI treatment is designed to help a higher number of better-quality sperm reach the womb, increasing the chances of fertilisation.
IUI treatment is different from other forms of IVF. It’s less invasive and complex - it simply means putting prepared sperm directly into the uterus.
IUI is usually done during your natural ovulation cycle, but if you need help with irregular ovulation, we might use fertility drugs to help optimise egg production. When you are about to ovulate, the sperm you’re using will be prepared, and will be used for insemination. You can use sperm from a partner or from a donor – if you are using sperm from a donor, this is known as donor insemination (DI).
Is IUI right for me?
IUI treatment is recommended for people unable to conceive, perhaps because of a low sperm count or poor sperm mobility. If you’re younger than 35, you might consider IUI after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for one year. If you’re older than 35, you might be a candidate if you’ve been trying to conceive for six months.
Before having IUI, we will do some tests to discover the main reason behind your difficulty conceiving. This will help us decide whether IUI is suitable for you. A woman will need open and healthy fallopian tubes to be considered for IUI.
We would not recommend IUI if you have unexplained fertility issues, poor-quality sperm or mild endometriosis, as research suggests IUI is unlikely to increase your chances of pregnancy.
What is the IUI treatment process?
IUI treatment is less invasive and complex than traditional IVF since it’s a simpler process. These are the steps you can expect during your IUI procedure with Care Fertility.
Step 1: Consultation
You’ll have an initial consultation with your fertility consultant to discuss your fertility health, and whether an IUI procedure would be the right option for you. Your consultant will also explain any tests that you’ll need before starting IUI treatment.
Step 2: Ovulation
IUI can be performed during your natural ovulation cycle, but if you have any issues with ovulation then we can use fertility drugs to help stimulate egg maturation.
We usually time IUI treatment to coincide with ovulation, using blood or urine tests and ultrasound to carefully monitor the ovulation cycle. If needed, we might also trigger ovulation with medication and then time the procedure to take place 36 hours later.
You’ll need to come into the clinic around day 7 to 9 of your cycle for an ultrasound scan so we can check the progress of your eggs and the growth of the follicles (the fluid-filled structures that contain the eggs).
When you have follicles of the appropriate number and size in your ovary, you may be given a urine dipstick kit to measure your LH levels (ovulation hormone) and advised to contact the clinic when you have a positive LH test. Or you may be given a final injection to release the the eggs 24 to 40 hours later.
Step 3: Preparing sperm
On the day of your IUI procedure, the sperm you’re using will be prepared, either from your partner’s sperm sample or from a frozen donor sample.
Step 4: IUI procedure
A vial containing your sperm sample is attached to a very fine, flexible plastic tube, which is inserted through the vagina and the cervical opening, finishing in the uterus. Sperm is then pushed through the tube and into the uterus, where they will reach the Fallopian tubes where they’ll hopefully fertilise the eggs.
The procedure only takes a few minutes to complete and is almost always painless. Some mild discomfort may occur, and you may experience mild cramps, but both feelings should disappear once the process is over.
Step 5: Monitoring
We’ll monitor your progress after your IUI procedure. After the treatment, some patients may require progesterone pessaries to help keep the lining of the womb receptive to any embryo that may form. Your consultant will discuss this with you.
Before you decide to have IUI, it’s worth remembering that - as with any fertility treatment - there is no guarantee of success. IUI success rates are low in comparison to IVF. Your fertility specialist will make a treatment recommendation based on your individual circumstances.
Risks of IUI
- Infection following the procedure.
- Spotting. Inserting the catheter can cause a small amount of vaginal bleeding, but this rarely impacts the chances of pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies, when performed with ovulation-inducing medication.
Benefits of IUI
- IUI is a good option for single women and same sex couples who don't have fertility issues but need donor sperm.
- IUI is the lowest-cost form of assisted reproduction treatment.
- There is no egg collection involved in IUI, meaning that there is no invasive procedure, and sedation is not required.
- Incredibly safe, with very low risks involved.
- Mostly painless procedure
Using donor sperm in IUI
IUI success rates
- The reason IUI is being performed. If IUI is used to help lesbian couples or single women using donor sperm, there isn't necessarily a fertility issue preventing them from becoming pregnant
- The woman's age
- The man's sperm count and quality of sperm.
- Whether it is carried out in a drug-stimulated or natural (drug-free) cycle
IUI vs IVF - Considerations and comparisons
- IUI is less invasive and less expensive
- IVF has a higher success rate
- IUI treatments generally involve multiple treatment cycles.
- Pregnancy rates from IUI are lower than IVF because there is no monitoring of embryo development or selection of the most viable embryo.
Arranging a consultation is simple; we offer virtual and in-person consultations.
You can book your consultation and pre-treatment tests below.
Or if you’d like to talk to someone at Care about your options, it's straightforward to get started, call us on 0800 564 2270.