Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Artificial insemination procedures are designed to help infertile couples conceive. In an AI procedure, fertile sperm is placed directly into a woman’s uterus (intrauterine insemination) or cervix (intracervical insemination) through artificial means rather than through natural copulation. AI can compensate for mild male infertility, as semen samples are “washed” prior to insemination, purifying them so that they consist of only the strongest sperm. Donor sperm (sperm provided by a sperm bank) may be used in certain cases. There are several different artificial insemination techniques, each of which is useful for certain types of fertility problems.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is very similar to intracervical insemination except that the sperm is deposited in the uterus rather than the cervix, making it one step closer to the fallopian tubes. This technique provides the advantage of requiring less travel by the sperm to reach their target and helps to produce higher success rates. IUI is the most common form of AI performed today. Aside from minor cramping, the risks of intrauterine insemination include disease transmission from improperly screened semen, ovarian hyperstimulation, and multiple pregnancies.
The IUI Procedure
The first step of the IUI procedure is to keep track of the woman’s fertility cycle and plan the procedure for the exact time that she will be ovulating. The woman is also placed on fertility medication in an effort to help her produce multiple eggs. After abstaining from ejaculating for two to five days, the male provides a semen specimen, either at his home or at the clinic, on the morning of the procedure. The specimen undergoes sperm processing (also called “sperm washing”), a process in which the sperm cells are separated from the other material in the semen, yielding a more concentrated and effective sample.
A very thin, soft, and flexible catheter is used to transfer the concentrated sperm into the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus. As the sperm sample is concentrated and highly motile, the sperm stand a greater chance of successfully traveling to the fallopian tubes and fertilizing an egg. The entire IUI procedure takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
IUI Success Rates
IUI success rates vary greatly depending on causes of infertility and many other variables. IUI pregnancy rates begin to drop in women over the age of 35, and drop severely for women over the age of 40. However, in general they are about twice as high as the success rates of natural conception. If IUI is unsuccessful, patients may always consider in vitro fertilization (IVF), which tends to have a very high success rate.
The cost of intrauterine insemination varies greatly depending upon which state the procedure is performed in. In general, the cost of intrauterine insemination can approach or even surpass $5,000. This figure includes the cost of pre- and post-insemination consultations and appointments, fertility medication, sperm processing, and the actual insemination. It’s important to ask your fertility specialist if his or her practice offers any infertility treatment financing options to help defray the cost of the procedure.
Locate a Fertility Clinic
If you think that artificial insemination procedures may be able to help you conceive, the next step is to contact a skilled physician in your area. Let DocShop help you find a qualified fertility doctor near you who can explain the artificial insemination process, including the side effects of intracervical or intrauterine insemination and any other risks you should consider before undergoing artificial insemination.