A blue shape representing an embryo

IUI

Intrauterine insemination is a technique that involves placing a large number of sperm directly into the uterus to increase the chances that the sperm and egg will meet.

When is it necessary?

For successful conception to occur, sperm must travel through the female’s reproductive tract to meet and fertilise an egg. There are several factors that may hinder this process, including:

  • Difficulties with sexual intercourse
  • Mild sperm abnormalities
  • Cervical factor infertility (the cervix is the part where the uterus connects to the vagina; the production of abnormal mucus here may prevent the passage of sperm into the uterus)
  • Unexplained infertility.

Additionally, IUI is required when patients require donor sperm to conceive.

How does it work?

In intrauterine insemination, large numbers of processed and concentrated sperm are placed high in the uterus. This overcomes a number of obstacles that may prevent sperm from reaching the egg, thus increasing the chances of successful conception. It is a simple, relatively low-cost intervention that is often used before IVF is considered. It may also be used for donor sperm or frozen sperm.

Some people choose to have intrauterine insemination together with ovulation induction (which induces the ovaries to release an egg).

The intrauterine insemination process

If fresh sperm is used, it is firstly collected from the male partner. The collected sperm is then processed to remove unnecessary fluid, concentrate the sperm and select only the healthiest sperm for insemination. If frozen sperm is used, it must be thawed.

Insemination is timed to coincide with ovulation. This is ensured by triggering ovulation with an hCG injection, which guarantees ovulation 38 hours afterward.

When the time is right, a speculum is inserted in the vagina, and a 1mm tube inserted through the opening of the uterus to deposit sperm high in the woman’s uterus. This procedure feels similar to a pap test – it takes a few minutes only, there’s no use of anaesthetic and you can promptly resume your day following the procedure.

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