IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a type of artificial insemination. Sperm that have been washed and concentrated are placed directly inside of your uterus during ovulation. This helps healthy sperm get closer to the egg when it’s released by your ovaries. It’s a common fertility treatment for couples or individuals wishing to conceive.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI), a type of artificial insemination, is a fertility treatment where sperm is placed directly into a person’s uterus.
During a natural conception, sperm has to travel from your vagina through your cervix, into your uterus and to your fallopian tubes. Only 5% of the sperm are able to travel from your vagina to your uterus. Once your ovary releases an egg, it travels to your fallopian tube. This is where the sperm and egg meet and fertilization occurs. With IUI, the sperm is collected, washed and concentrated so that only high-quality sperm remain. This sperm is placed directly into your uterus with a catheter (thin tube), putting it closer to your fallopian tubes. IUI makes it easier for the sperm to reach an egg because it cuts down on the time and distance it has to travel. This increases your chance of becoming pregnant.
Healthcare providers often try IUI before other more invasive and expensive fertility treatments. IUIs can be performed with your partner’s sperm or with donor sperm. A person may take fertility drugs to ensure eggs are released during ovulation.
People choose IUI for many reasons, such as infertility issues, or as a reproductive option for same-sex female couples or females who wish to have a baby without a partner, using a sperm donor.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be used when these conditions are present:
The timeline for the IUI procedure is approximately four weeks (around 28 days) from beginning to end. It’s about the same length as a regular menstrual cycle.
The success varies depending on the underlying cause of infertility. IUI works best in people with unexplained infertility, and people with cervical mucus issues or issues with ejaculation. There are certain conditions like fallopian tube disorders, endometriosis or severe sperm impairment where IUI won’t work well. Treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilization) may work better for these issues.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is different from in vitro fertilization (IVF) because fertilization occurs inside of your fallopian tube in an IUI procedure. A sperm sample is collected and washed so that only high-quality sperm are left. This sample is inserted into your uterus with a catheter during ovulation. This method helps the sperm get to the egg more easily in hopes fertilization will happen. With IVF, the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of your body (in a lab) and then placed in your uterus as an embryo. IUI is less expensive and less invasive than IVF. IUI has a lower success rate per cycle.
Every treatment plan and healthcare provider may have a slightly different process. IUI treatment typically includes the following:
Please consult with your healthcare provider to get the best understanding of the IUI process and what to expect.
Before starting IUI treatment, you’ll need a thorough medical exam and fertility tests. Your partner will be examined and tested as well. This could include:
Your healthcare provider may recommend taking folic acid (included in most prenatal vitamins) at least three months before conception (or IUI treatment).
There are some mild symptoms that you can experience after IUI:
Most people will return to normal activities right away. You should avoid anything that makes you feel uncomfortable after IUI, but there usually aren’t any restrictions. A pregnancy test can be taken around two weeks after IUI.
Anesthesia isn’t required for IUI and the procedure shouldn’t be painful. However, you may have mild cramping and discomfort during and right after insemination.
IUI is often combined with fertility medications that stimulate your ovaries to produce and release as many eggs as possible. However, it’s not always needed. Some common medications are:
Your healthcare provider will determine if fertility drugs will be used as part of your IUI treatment.
The cost of IUI varies depending on the fertility clinic you use, your health history, use of medications and diagnostic testing. It’s less expensive than other infertility treatments like IVF. You can expect to pay between $300 and $4,000 per cycle without insurance. Some states have laws that require insurance companies to cover part of the costs of infertility treatment.
IUI is low risk compared to other more invasive fertility treatments like IVF. Some of the risks of IUI are:
Some people experience mild side effects from fertility medications. The most common side effects after insemination are cramping and spotting.
IUI can be mentally and physically difficult. Couples or individuals suffering from infertility issues and pursuing assisted reproductive technologies often struggle with depression. Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re feeling disappointed or overwhelmed so they can help you through the process.
IUI can be highly effective, especially when fertility drugs are used. The pregnancy rate for IUI when fertility drugs are used can be as high as 20%. The effectiveness of IUI is mostly dependent on the underlying cause of infertility and the age of the birth parent. The IUI fertility rate is about the same as a normal conception (around 20%), which means IUI helps bring people’s chances up to a more typical success rate.
You’ll know if you’re pregnant approximately two weeks after IUI. It takes about that long for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to be detected in blood or urine. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you should return for a blood test to detect pregnancy or if you can use an at-home urine test.
Most healthcare providers recommend three cycles of IUI before pursuing another reproductive treatment, like IVF. If you’re over the age of 40, some healthcare providers recommend just one cycle of IUI before moving on to IVF. This is because the success rates for IVF are higher for that age group and timely treatment is important.
In some cases, going straight to IVF treatment and skipping IUI may be better for you. This is the case if you have a condition like endometriosis, fallopian tube damage or advanced maternal age.
If you haven’t gotten pregnant after three cycles of IUI, your healthcare provider will discuss the next steps with you.
If you’re taking fertility medications for IUI, you should contact your healthcare provider if any of the following happens:
Several factors can determine the success of IUI. These factors include:
Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how to increase your chances of becoming pregnant using IUI.
Other than the reason for infertility, age is the most important factor in determining the success of IUI. Most healthcare providers will recommend IUI before turning 40 to increase your chance of becoming pregnant.
As a person ages, they have fewer eggs and the quality of those eggs decreases. The pregnancy rate for IUI by age is:
Most people will try IUI before IVF because it’s more affordable and less invasive. In some cases, your healthcare provider will decide IUI will not work for you and recommend IVF. This can be due to age or the underlying reason for infertility. One treatment isn’t better than the other, but one may give you a higher chance of conceiving.
Yes, you can have sex before and after IUI. You’re increasing your chances of becoming pregnant by having sex the day of IUI or the day after.
A note from Cleveland Clinic:
If you’re having difficulty conceiving, speak with your healthcare provider. Many people struggle with infertility, and there are options to help you. IUI may be one of those options. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the right fertility treatment to help you achieve a successful pregnancy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/02/2022.
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