Understanding the IUI Procedure

Understanding the IUI Procedure Understanding the IUI Procedure

Are you considering the intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure? The IUI procedure may help you get pregnant and take home a baby, particularly if you are dealing with infertility.

How the IUI procedure works
When you undergo the IUI procedure, you can expect to go through the following three steps:

  1. You may begin taking fertility drugs and your ovulation cycle will be monitored.
  2. Your partner will provide a sperm sample (or you will obtain donor sperm) that will be specially washed and prepared for the insemination.
  3. Your doctor will inject the prepared sperm into your uterus.

Getting ready for the IUI procedure
Before the intrauterine insemination procedure, you will need to visit a fertility specialist and have a pre-IUI workup. With this workup, your doctor will check to see if you are in good health. The doctor will assess your hormone levels to see if they are in the normal range and check to see if your uterus can support a pregnancy.

Prior to the IUI procedure, your doctor may start you on ovulation drugs, while closely monitoring you with ultrasound and/or blood testing. This monitoring will confirm that you are producing healthy eggs. It will also help your doctor determine the best timing for the injection of the sperm.

You may also take another test that tells you when ovulation is about to happen. Right before ovulation, there is a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). Ovulation occurs within 1-2 days after the LH surge. Your doctor will inject the sperm into your uterus at the optimal time for conception.

Preparing sperm for IUI
Your partner will give a sperm sample, which will be washed and prepared for the IUI procedure. This washing can remove potentially toxic chemicals possibly present in the sperm that your body may negatively react to.

These chemicals can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in women, which could hinder pregnancy. Washing the sperm may also minimize the cramping that sometimes occurs after the IUI procedure.

This washing and preparation process also concentrates the sperm into a high volume. This high concentration helps the healthiest, most mobile sperm to reach the egg. This helps to increase IUI success rates.

Inserting sperm during IUI
Injecting the prepared sperm into your uterus is quick and virtually painless. This part of the IUI procedure takes 1-2 hours at the most. Here is what to expect:

  1. You will lie down on the exam table as you normally do for a pelvic exam. 
  2. Your doctor will insert a very small, thin and flexible catheter into your cervix. 
  3. The washed sperm sample is injected right into your uterus.

Since you will be lying down for awhile after the IUI procedure, you may want to bring a friend, your partner or a good book to read while you are waiting in the exam room. Having support may help you to stay calm during the process.

Some doctors perform two inseminations with the intrauterine insemination procedure. These are done within a day of each other.

Following the IUI procedure
About a week after ovulation your doctor may have you come back to the office to check your progesterone levels. Your doctor will observe your uterine lining with an ultrasound at this time. By checking your uterine lining to see how thick it is, your doctor may have some clues as to whether the IUI procedure was effective.

The IUI procedure for male infertility
If male factor infertility issues are suspected before IUI, your partner will need a full male fertility evaluation, including a sperm analysis (SA), before you undergo the IUI procedure.

During this evaluation, a doctor will check your partner’s semen for sperm count and motility. If he has low sperm count, the doctor may ask him to give several semen samples that can be used during the IUI procedure. Having several samples will increase the number of sperm available and may improve your chances of IUI success.

Before giving a sperm sample, your partner will want to abstain from ejaculation for 2-3 days. This 2-3 day wait will maximize his sperm count, and help ensure that his sperm are healthy and mobile.

Get healthy before IUI
Practice healthy lifestyle habits when trying to conceive. To optimize your chances of a healthy pregnancy, get to a healthy weight and stop drinking, smoking and using other drugs.

Talk to your doctor to see if you should take a multivitamin, or make any other healthy lifestyle changes before starting the IUI procedure. 

Ask a doctor in your area about IUI

Sources
  • American Pregnancy Association: Intrauterine Insemination: IUI 
  • Male Infertility International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc.: General Infertility FAQ 
  • RESOLVE: Intrauterine Insemination Medical Aspects of Donor Insemination 
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