Fertility Blog

Demystifying IUI: What You Need to Know

Quick quiz: Which of the following may benefit from intrauterine insemination {IUI}?

A. Couples experiencing infertility
B. LGBTQ+ individuals and couples
C. Single women using donor sperm
D. All of the above.

If you responded “D,” you’re correct! IUI is a safe, effective assisted reproductive technology (ART) technique that helps many people conceive while also being a minimally invasive procedure. However, IUI isn’t right for everyone. Here’s what everyone should know about IUI.

What Is In Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)?

The first documented case of IUI being performed on humans was in the 1770s by John Hunter, a British surgeon who is sometimes referred to as the “founder of scientific surgery.” The IUI procedure is quite simple and involves a catheter being inserted into a woman’s uterus during ovulation to deposit high-quality sperm. This increases the chances of conception by enhancing the sperm’s chances of reaching a woman’s fallopian tubes and eggs in less time and for a shorter distance.

Common Reasons Why IUI Is Performed

IUI is often the first line of treatment recommended by fertility specialists for a wide variety of scenarios, including:

  • Ovulatory disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or premature ovarian failure (POF)
  • Cervical factor infertility – impaired cervical mucus that affects the sperm's ability to travel to the uterus
  • Mild endometriosis
  • Male factor infertility
  • Ejaculatory dysfunction
  • Immunological infertility – when the immune system attacks sperm or embryos
  • Unexplained infertility – when there is no identifiable cause despite a thorough fertility assessment
  • Using donor sperm
  • LGBTQ+ family-building

IUI may yield lower pregnancy rates, depending on factors like your age, infertility causes, and fertility drug use. While not everyone, including those with fallopian tube disorders or sperm function issues, may benefit, IUI is recommended for certain situations. In other cases, the more advanced in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be recommended.

Potential IUI Side Effects

As a minimally invasive procedure, IUI is typically painless, although patients can experience mild cramping, discomfort, or infection during the procedure and afterward. In most cases, IUI is performed while using ovulation-inducing medications, which come with their own potential side effects and risks, including:

  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Injection site reactions

Rarely, you may experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), where fertility drugs increase ovarian egg development, causing pain and swelling.

Explore IUI as a Fertility Treatment Option

Talk to your fertility specialist about IUI and whether you qualify. If you’d like to schedule an IUI consultation in the Washington, DC metro area, we invite you to contact Washington Fertility Center today.