Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) can sometimes be referred to as Artificial Insemination (AI), a simple treatment procedure aimed to provide assistance to sperm in inseminating the uterus.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is one of the simpler, less complex and less invasive treatment options available to you. It is often the starting point for many individuals or couples who experiencing difficulty trying to conceive.
IUI might be the first step in your fertility treatment journey if you:
- Have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility
- Have been diagnosed with mild male factor infertility
- Have scarring of the cervix or other concerns that prevent sperm penetration
- Have irregular or absent ovulation
- Cannot have regular or penetrative sexual intercourse
- Need to use donor sperm
IUI treatment would generally not be recommended to patients who have severe male factor infertility or blocked fallopian tubes or severe endometriosis.
The purpose of IUI treatment is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tube which therefore increases the chance of fertilisation. The technique provides sperm with an advantage by giving it a head start with where it needs to go, but it still needs to reach and fertilise the egg on its own.
After you’ve consulted with your fertility specialist and completed some preliminary fertility testing, you will have a better idea as to whether IUI is a suitable treatment option for you.
The IUI treatment process
For this procedure, the fertility specialist will insert a speculum into your vagina in order to better visualise your cervix.
They will then pass a soft, thin catheter through the opening of your cervix and into the uterus. The pre-prepared sperm will then be introduced to the uterus via the catheter. The procedure will only take a few minutes to complete and can be likened to a pap smear.
You will be able to return to your daily activities as soon as the IUI is completed. You will not require anaesthesia unless you do not tolerate speculum examinations. There is an option to complete the procedure under light sedation if required and this is something you should discuss with your fertility specialist.
Important components to IUI treatment
Different IUI treatment types
If your fertility specialist recommends IUI treatment for you, there are three different methods of treatment that you may undertake. They are:
- Natural Insemination Cycle – This option allows patients to complete IUI without being required to take any medication. This cycle will follow your natural menstrual cycle and is commonly used for individuals or couples who are unable to have intercourse.
- Clomiphere Citrate Cycle – This treatment options involves using clomiphene citrate to help stimulate the ovaries. Clomiphene citrate is a pill taken orally and is commonly used to assist women with ovulation disorders as reflected by infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles.
- FSH Ovulation Induction Cycle – Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) injections can also be used in an IUI treatment cycle to help stimulate the ovaries. FSH stimulates the production of eggs in the ovaries from the pituitary gland in the brain.
Our specialised team of scientists prepare each sperm sample with a procedure commonly known as “sperm washing” in our laboratory. Sperm washing involves placing the sperm sample in a test tube. A centrifuge spins the sample at high speed, resulting in the sperm collecting in a “pellet” at the bottom of the test tube. The scientist removes the seminal fluid and places the fluid (media) above the sperm pellet. The most active sperm will then swim up into the media. The final sample consists of the most active sperm concentrated in a small volume of media taken from the top of the test tube.
Timing the Insemination
IUI treatment procedures will be timed around your time of ovulation. However the exact timing of insemination is not critical to the exact time of ovulation. Both the sperm and the egg remain viable in the female genital tract for many hours, so your fertility specialist may time the insemination within a window of several hours around the time of ovulation.
If you have taken hormones, you may need to take daily supplemental progesterone—usually in the form of a capsule inserted into your vagina twice a day— or injections, to support the endometrial lining of the uterus and implantation of the embryo.