Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Six questions (and answers!)


Perhaps you are at the start of your fertility journey, and you are sorting through the treatments and options available to you. You’ve doubtless encountered a host of acronyms and medical jargon. What is invitro fertilization (IVF)? What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)? What’s the difference between the two?

We’ve put this brief explainer together to help walk you through the basics of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

What is intrauterine insemination?

Simply put, IUI involves carefully placing the sperm directly into a woman’s uterus while she is ovulating.

Will intrauterine insemination help me?

Intrauterine insemination is helpful in situations where low sperm count or mobility is a factor. It’s also helpful in cases where cervical issues present a barrier, or when infertility is unexplained.

Intrauterine insemination may also be an option for same-sex couples or others seeking to become pregnant with the help of donated sperm.

How does intrauterine insemination work?

Intrauterine insemination is performed when the woman is ovulating. Tracking ovulation will involve frequent – even daily – visits to the doctor’s office for bloodwork and an internal ultrasound.

Ovulation is detected when  luteinizing hormone (LH) surges above typical levels. That surge in LH signals that an egg is mature and ready for release. Medications such as clomophine citrate, gonadotropins, urofollitropins may also be used to stimulate or support ovulation.

Once the LH surge is detected, IUI is typically performed within 24-36 hours.

The male partner will produce a semen sample. In preparation for IUI, the male partner will be asked to abstain from sex or masturbation for 48 hours before the procedure. Abstention will maximize the number and quality of sperm available. The sample can be produced either at home or in the doctor’s office.

Once the sample is produced, seminal fluid will be washed away, and the most vigorous sperm will be selected.

The IUI procedure itself is quick and less invasive than other procedures. Just as with the typical pelvic exam, a speculum is inserted into the woman’s vagina. A flexible catheter is passed through the cervix directly into the uterus. The sperm is then transferred into the uterus through the catheter.

What is the success rate for intrauterine insemination?

The pregnancy rate for couples that undergo IUI is similar to the pregnancy rates for couples who get pregnant with no intervention. That means that for women under the age of 35, pregnancy rates are as high as 20 percent per cycle. The success rate for IUI is cumulative, too, with the chance of pregnancy increasing over time.

What are the risks of intrauterine insemination?

As with most medical procedures, there’s a slight risk of infection. While most women report no pain, there may be some mild discomfort during the procedure and some spotting after.

While IUI itself doesn’t increase the risk of multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets and more), the use of hormones to boost ovulation might. Multiple pregnancies carry increased risks for both mother and children.

How much does intrauterine insemination cost?

IUI typically costs less than other fertility treatments, such as IVF. Our office can help you verify your insurance benefits and discuss financing options.