If you are experiencing infertility, it can feel like you are alone, but it’s a common issue. About one in every eight women, or 6.1 million Americans aged 15 to 44, have difficulty becoming or remaining pregnant. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a commonly used procedure to increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant. 

If you haven’t heard of IUI, it’s one of the many ways that you can conceive, even if you haven’t been able to before. It’s important to consider success rates for any fertility treatments. The Advanced Reproductive Specialists at Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine offer some advice and tips for seeking IUI treatment. 

What Is IUI, and Who Is It For?

Artificial or intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a non-invasive medical procedure in which a doctor inserts your partner’s or donor’s cleaned sperm directly into your uterus to bring them closer to the egg. This reduces the time it takes for sperm to reach the egg for fertilization. Women who are experiencing infertility may find that IUI increases their chances of becoming pregnant. 

An IUI cycle can be medicated (by using oral fertility drugs to increase a woman’s ovulation number) or natural (timed with an ovulation predictor kit). 

IUI is a popular procedure that is usually chosen when partners and women encounter:

  • Undiagnosed infertility
  • Cervical disorders that obstruct sperm or are hostile to them 
  • Problems with erection or ejaculation that inhibit sperm production during sexual activity
  • Infertility is caused by male factors that reduce the number or percentage of mobile sperm
  • Mild fallopian tube disease

IUI is also an option for women who want to use donor sperm. The process is less costly than IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies because the woman’s eggs are always retained within her body.

IUI is unnecessary in anovulatory women with sufficient sperm availability. Nevertheless, numerous women who experience ovulation are prescribed fertility medications to facilitate timed intercourse, yet there is no medical substantiation for enhanced pregnancy rates unless intrauterine insemination (IUI) is incorporated. 

How IUI Works and What to Expect

The IUI process has several steps to increase your chances of success.  

Phase 1: Preparing for IUI 

Before IUI, your doctor may prescribe oral fertility drugs like clomiphene citrate or letrozole. These medicines tell the ovaries to make eggs. Fortunately, fertility drugs typically cause only minor side effects, such as nausea, breast tenderness, and bloating. Possible risks include the occurrence of a twin (or occasionally higher) pregnancy and a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, with both events happening in less than five percent of cycles. 

Phase 2: Monitoring Your Cycle 

The IUI process usually begins on the first day of a woman’s period. Your doctor will carefully monitor your menstrual cycle for up to 14 days using blood tests and an ultrasound. The goal is to monitor egg maturation so you and your doctor know when you are ovulating and ready to conceive.  

Phase 3: Preparing for Insemination 

In this period, the sperm donor will either gather a semen sample at home or in the doctor’s office. To ensure that the sperm sample used for insemination is as healthy as possible, it is “washed.” Additionally, sperm washing removes substances from the semen that might otherwise trigger intense contractions in the uterus.  

Phase 4: Insemination 

During IUI, the doctor uses a soft, flexible tube to gently inject the sperm into the uterus after carefully inserting it through the cervix. IUI procedures take 5 to 10 minutes to complete in an office setting, with little to no discomfort. 

Phase 5: Monitoring and Follow-Up  

After the embryo is successfully implanted, the next step is to monitor it. Your fertility doctor will follow up with you to see how your pregnancy is going until the eighth week, at which point you will be referred to an obstetrician/gyn. 

How Effective Is IUI?

The primary concern for most women contemplating IUI is whether it will be successful. Five main factors determine the answer.

  1. Unexplained infertility. A woman can have trouble getting pregnant even if she has a healthy uterus, a good egg count, and a partner with a good sperm count. In these situations, IUI has a 7–10% success rate each time it is used to get pregnant. That percentage may rise to 15–25% if your doctor prescribes fertility medications. 
  1. Blocked fallopian tubes. The success rate of IUI naturally varies if you have a single blocked fallopian tube, which is a common condition. There is an 11.7% success rate if the blockage is near an ovary. An IUI procedure can have a success rate of up to 38.1% if the blockage is closer to the uterus.
  1. Male factor infertility. IUI may help a male partner who is having trouble getting pregnant as long as there are not any serious problems with the sperm. IUI can be beneficial when the sperm are somewhat or borderline normal because it brings the sperm and egg closer together. The success rate of IUI in these cases is approximately 16.9%. 
  1. Age. An aging woman produces fewer eggs of lower quality than her age. In these cases, it may take more than one IUI procedure to become pregnant. The most recent data on the relationship between age and IUI success is as follows:
  • Women under 35 years old have an IUI success rate of approximately 13%.
  • Women aged 35 to 37 have an IUI success rate of around 10%.
  • The success rate for those aged 38 to 40 is around 9%.
  • Over 40 years old, the success rate drops to 3-9%.
  1. Timing. Your fertility specialist will advise you on when to take medication and submit a sperm sample, as well as closely monitor and record the timing of ovulation. Timing is everything in this delicate dance, significantly impacting the procedure’s final result.

Is IUI Right for You? 

For women and their partners looking to reduce infertility, IUI is a quick, safe, and relatively non-invasive treatment. In addition, the procedure is less stressful on the body than other forms of infertility treatments and is comparatively low-risk.  

We recognize the difficulties associated with infertility and pregnancy at the Advanced Reproductive Specialist Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine. We combine our knowledge with empathy, realizing that each person’s experience with conception and pregnancy is different. 

Take the Next Step

If you are experiencing infertility, we can assist you in reaching your goals. For further information, please consult with our team.