How Does Intrauterine Insemination Work?
When people first suspect that they may have an issue with infertility, they immediately assume that they will have to go through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to get pregnant. While IVF is certainly one of the most commonly used forms of assisted reproductive technologies, it’s often not the first step in your fertility treatment journey. In many instances, individuals and couples are able to conceive through a process known as intrauterine insemination (IUI).
What Is Intrauterine Insemination?
In standard fertilization, semen enters the female reproductive system via the cervix so that the sperm can journey through the uterus to the fallopian tubes in hopes of meeting an egg to fertilize. IUI is a form of artificial insemination that bypasses part of this journey by placing the sperm directly into the uterus so that the sperm have a greater chance of getting close to the egg and fertilizing it.
Prior to the actual IUI procedure, fertility specialists will sometimes prescribe fertility medication in order to stimulate ovulation. A semen sample is collected from the male partner or a donor and is prepared through a process known as sperm washing, which removes chemicals that can impede fertilization as well as any dead or low-performing sperm. During this process, the sperm is separated from the seminal fluid. There are three types of sperm washing:
- The swim-up method, in which sperm are collected as they swim
- The density gradient method, in which sperm are isolated from debris
- The simple wash method, which gathers active sperm in a test tube
Once the sperm has been prepared and you are ovulating, the actual IUI procedure is ready to begin. A small, thin tube is placed in your cervix and the specially prepared semen is deposited in your uterus via the tube. The tube is then removed and the procedure is over. The procedure is quick, fairly simple, and typically causes very little discomfort, similar to what you might experience during a Pap smear.
Once the procedure is over, your doctor may recommend that you lie on your back for a brief period. After that, you can go about your day as normal. Within the next two weeks, your doctor will order a blood test to check whether you’re pregnant.
When Is Intrauterine Insemination Recommended?
IUI can be a useful fertility treatment option in a wide variety of scenarios. These include cases involving:
- Unexplained infertility
- Hostile cervical mucus
- Male factor infertility conditions, such as low sperm count or decreased sperm motility
- Endometriosis-related infertility
- Irregular ovulation
- Sperm donation
If you think IUI is right for you and would like to learn more, contact the fertility specialists at Washington Fertility Center.