If you’re experiencing infertility, you’re not alone. About 1 in 8 women, or 6.1 million Americans have trouble getting or staying pregnant. One of the procedures we frequently rely upon to improve your chances of getting pregnant is intrauterine insemination (IUI). What is this procedure? Perhaps more importantly to families seeking pregnancy—what are the success rates? Fortunately, you have experts at The IVF Center who can help you navigate these questions.
What Is IUI and Who Is It For?
IUI, known as artificial or intrauterine insemination, is a non-invasive procedure where a doctor places washed sperm, of your partner or donor, directly inside your uterus to bring them closer to the egg. This reduces the time for sperm to travel to the egg for fertilization. Women who are struggling with infertility may improve their chances of getting pregnant with IUI.
A cycle of IUI can be either natural (timed with an ovulation predictor kit) or medicated (by using oral fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs a woman ovulates).
IUI is a common procedure that is typically selected when women and their partners experience:
- Unexplained infertility
- Cervical conditions that block or are hostile to sperm
- Erection or ejaculation problems preventing sperm production during intercourse
- Male factor infertility decreasing sperm count or percentage of moving sperm
- Mild endometriosis
- Mild fallopian tube disease
IUI can also be implemented when a woman desires the use of donor sperm. It’s a less expensive procedure than assisted reproductive technology (i.e. IVF) because the woman’s eggs are always kept inside her body.
In women who do not ovulate, IUI is not necessary when there is adequate sperm available. However, many women who ovulate are prescribed fertility medications to proceed with ovulation timed intercourse, but there is no medical evidence for improvement in pregnancy rates unless IUI is added.
What Can I Expect During IUI?
There are several steps to the IUI process to improve your chances of success.
Before IUI, you may end up taking oral fertility drugs prescribed by your doctor such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole . These medications stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Fortunately, there are typically only mild side effects from fertility drugs including nausea, breast tenderness and bloatedness. Risks may involve a twin (or rarely higher) pregnancy and a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, both approximately occurring in less than five percent of cycles.
The IUI process typically starts on the first day of a woman’s period. Your doctor will carefully use bloodwork and an ultrasound to monitor the menstrual cycle for up to 14 days. The goal is to watch for egg maturation, so that you and your doctor can know when you’re ovulating and the time is right for conception.
During this time, the sperm donor will collect a semen sample in the doctor’s office or at home. The collected sperm are “washed” to obtain the healthiest sample for the insemination process. Sperm washing also eliminates chemicals from the semen that could otherwise cause severe uterine contractions.
During IUI, the doctor carefully inserts a soft, flexible tub through the cervix into the uterus to gently inject the sperm. If IUI results in a successful implantation of the embryo inside your uterus, you will be monitored for progress of your pregnancy until the 8th week when you are referred to your Ob/Gyn.
The IUI procedure is performed in the office and takes about 5-10 minutes involving minimal to no discomfort.
What Is the Effectiveness of IUI?
Most women considering IUI really only have one question: will it work? The answer depends on five primary factors.
- Unexplained infertility. Even with a good egg count, open fallopian tubes, a healthy uterus and a partner who has a good sperm count, there are cases where the woman has unexplainable difficulty conceiving. In these cases, the success rate of IUI is around 7 to 10% during each reproductive cycle. If your doctor prescribes fertility drugs, that percentage can increase to 15 to 25%.
- Fallopian tube blockage. If you have one blocked fallopian tube, a common condition, the success rate for IUI understandably changes. If the blockage is close to an ovary, the success rate is 11.7%. If the blockage is closer to the uterus, the success rate of IUI can be as high as 38.1%.
- Male factor infertility. As long as there are no severe sperm issues, IUI may be a solution for a male partner’s infertility. Since IUI puts the sperm closer to the egg, it can help when the sperm are fairly or borderline normal. In these cases, the IUI success rate is about 16.9%.
- Age. As the woman ages, both the quantity and quality of the eggs she produces declines. In these cases, it may take more than one IUI procedure to become pregnant. Here is the latest date on age as it correlates to IUI success:
- Women under 35 years old experience an IUI success rate of about 13%
- Women aged 35 to 37 have an IUI success rate of around 10%
- If you are 38 to 40 years old the success rate is around 9%
- Over 40 years old and the success rate declines to 3 to 9%
- Timing. Your fertility doctor must carefully examine and track when ovulation occurs and will guide you toward when to take medications and when to provide a sperm sample. It’s a delicate dance where timing is critically important and highly affects the outcome of the procedure itself.
IUI is relatively non-invasive, fast, and viable for women and their partners who are seeking to alleviate infertility. The procedure is also relatively low-risk and there is less stress on the body compared to other types of infertility treatments.
At The IVF Center, we understand the complexities surrounding infertility and pregnancy. We combine our expertise with compassion, and we understand that every person has their own unique journey related to conception and pregnancy.
If you’re experiencing infertility, we can help you toward your goal. Please Talk with our team to find out more.