What is IUI?
IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. It’s a fertility treatment, which involves medically planting sperm into a women’s uterus during ovulation. You may also have heard it referred to as artificial insemination. The two are one in the same.
When is IUI recommended?
IUI is a fairly affordable and noninvasive fertility treatment. Because of this, it is often recommended as an early option when dealing with fertility issues. Specifically, couples who are experiencing unexplained fertility issues, have had trouble getting pregnant with fertility drugs alone, have some infertility on the male’s side or cervical mucus issues in the woman, or who experience pain during intercourse (making it impossible) are likely good candidates to try IUI.
IUI is not recommended for women with blocked fallopian tubes, who have severe endometriosis or who have experienced a pelvic infection. Ovulation-stimulating drugs are often used in conjunction with IUI to increase chances of conceiving.
How much does IUI cost?
In the world of fertility treatments, IUI is very affordable. It costs much less than IVF treatment and is also much less invasive. If there is a chance IUI will work, it is likely to be recommended to you before IVF is explored.
The average IUI treatment costs $895, with prices varying significantly depending on the clinic you use and whether you need fertility drugs and/or donor sperm. Your insurance coverage as well as the additional costs will determine your final price for IUI, which can be up to $3,000 per cycle for comprehensive care. To put things in perspective, IVF costs an average of $19,000 for your first cycle.
The IUI Procedure
IUI is usually performed at a fertility clinic with no need to go to a hospital for the procedure.
If using donor sperm, the specimen will be thawed before your procedure. If your partner is providing sperm, he will do so the day of the procedure. If your partner is unable to be there the day of or has had trouble providing a sperm sample in the past, he may collect it before the IUI procedure day. It will be frozen and stored until the procedure. Wherever the semen comes from, it will then be “washed,” which removes all the extra components of semen that do not aid in conception.
During the IUI procedure you will lie on a gynecological table as you do during your yearly physical. A small thin tube called a catheter is then inserted in your cervix. You may experience some pain and cramping similar to what you feel during a pap smear. The semen is transferred through the catheter to your uterus. The doctor will remove the catheter and you’re done.
What happens after the IUI procedure?
After the sperm is implanted in your uterus via IUI in hopes of meeting an egg and conceiving, the next steps are a bit of a waiting game. Your doctor may prescribe progesterone, which often comes as a vaginal suppository, to help support the process.
You will likely have blood work performed about a week after IUI. This will measure progesterone, estrogen and hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels in the blood.
Between 10 days and two weeks following the procedure you will likely take a pregnancy test and see if the procedure worked as hoped.
What are the risks of IUI?
IUI is a minimally invasive procedure that carries little risk. There is a very small chance of infection. Other risks are associated with the fertility drugs often used in conjunction with IUI. Your doctor will discuss these risks with you before you begin treatment. For example, the use of gonadotropins, often found in fertility medications, can lead to the development of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
The risk of conceiving multiples with IUI also increases when taking gonadotropins. If too many follicles are present, you and your doctor may decide to skip an IUI cycle, during which you should also avoid unprotected sex to prevent a multiple pregnancy. This is a pertinent instruction for the benefit of your and your future baby’s health.
What is the success rate of IUI?
Pregnancy occurs in roughly 8–17% of IUI cycles when combined with fertility drugs. This figure is for one cycle only. Odds are higher if more cycles are performed. Your personal success rate is influenced by many factors and very hard to hypothesize up front.
Age and fertility issue have a significant impact on success rates of IUI. A research study of 1,000 IUI cycles, couples who used multiple IUI cycles had the following success:
- Infertility due to cervical factor: 55.6%
- Problems with ovulation: 47.4%
- Male factor infertility: 41.7%
- Low sperm count (less than 20 million per ml): 37.6
- Unexplained infertility: 35.1%
- Poor sperm motility: 13.4%
- Endometriosis: 10.7%
IVF success rates are higher, but IUI cost is much lower, making it an ideal frontline solution to certain infertility issues or couples who cannot afford IVF.