Quite often, when couples who are having difficulty getting pregnant come into the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility for the first time, they arrive with certain perceptions about treatment. Many of them have only heard of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and hormone supplements, and exhale a sigh of relief when we introduce intrauterine insemination (IUI) to them. The procedure is less invasive and less expensive than IVF, and typically has a higher success rate than hormone treatments alone.
Simply put, IUI involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus, with the goal of increasing the number of sperm that reaches the fallopian tubes, and consequently, increasing the chance of fertilization. Compared to other techniques, IUI is quick, painless, affordable, and effective, with a relatively low chance of complications.
Here’s a deeper look at the process that has helped so many of our patients have a baby.
IUI Success Rate
There are many variables, such as the woman’s age, the cause of infertility, and the type of fertility drugs used, that affect the success rate of individual cases. However, the statistics can be very encouraging.
You should first understand that the normal monthly rate of conception is just 1-3%. With IUI treatments, that rate of success can increase to 10-20% in women under 35, and 5-10% for women older than 40, for every cycle.
Candidates for IUI
For many couples, IUI is an excellent first option. It can be an effective solution for many causes of infertility, including:
- Cervical scaring
- Ejaculation issues
- Hostile cervical mucus
- Irregular cycles
- Poor sperm motility
The procedure can also be used in cases when the couple uses a sperm donor or when the man freezes his sperm (before cancer treatment, for example). Same-sex couples can also achieve a pregnancy through IUI; female couples would use a sperm donor and male couples can use their own sperm along with a surrogate/egg donor.
However, with IUI, the woman needs to be able to ovulate, have a healthy ovarian reserve, and a normal uterus.
The IUI Treatment Process
With the process, a concentrated amount of sperm is injected directly into a woman’s uterus.
Before completing insemination, you may be required to take ovulation-stimulating medication or hormones. The procedure is timed according to the start of your ovulation—as determined through ultrasounds or urinary LH tests. Once ovulation is detected, IUI is typically scheduled and performed within one to two days to maximize your chances of fertilization.
The male component of IUI involves a semen sample from your partner or a donor. This can be done at home or in our office. It’s recommended that you not have intercourse for 2-3 days before the insemination. That way, your partner can provide a strong sample when needed. The sample is then prepared for insemination through a process called sperm washing, which separates the sperm from the seminal fluid. This also removes chemicals in the semen that can cause a reaction in the uterus and make it more difficult to conceive.
The actual treatment takes only 5-10 minutes and involves minimal discomfort. Our doctor slides a thin, flexible tube through your cervix into your uterus, and using a small syringe, the sperm is flushed through the tube and directly into your uterine cavity.
Some patients may experience mild cramping but side effects are rare.
This process maximizes the number of sperm that reach your uterus and gives them a “head start,” but the sperm must still find and fertilize the egg on its own.
The next step is to watch for signs and symptoms of pregnancy. If pregnancy is not achieved, we may attempt IUI a few more times before moving on to a more complex procedure.
The cost of IUI varies, but it is usually significantly less expensive than other fertility treatments, such as IVF. Cost is usually less than $300 and includes prepping and washing of the sperm and the procedure with our doctor. Our team at AZCREI will always work with you and your insurance provider to minimize the cost as much as possible.
We want you to rest assured that you have options when it comes to overcoming your infertility. IUI is an incredible option to help you finally have a baby. To make an appointment and learn more about IUI options, visit Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility online or call us at 520-326-0001.