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Intrauterine Insemination

Intrauterine insemination is a common fertility treatment

Intrauterine insemination, often called IUI or artificial insemination, is a procedure in which sperm are placed directly into the uterine cavity through a catheter near the time of ovulation. This procedure is most commonly performed when there are male infertility problems with the sperm, such as low count or low motility, an incompatibility between the sperm and the cervical mucus, as well as for unexplained infertility.

IUI can also be performed to overcome problems associated with a man’s inability to ejaculate inside the woman’s vagina due to impotence, premature ejaculation or other medical conditions. IUI increases the chances of pregnancy because the sperm are placed directly in the uterus, bypassing the cervix and improving the delivery of the sperm to the egg.

Semen collection is the first step in intrauterine insemination

IUIs can be performed either with the partner’s sperm or with donor sperm. It is recommended that the male partner abstain from sexual intercourse for two to three days before the procedure. He will be instructed to obtain a semen sample by masturbation and ejaculation into a sterile container. The man should avoid ejaculating for two to five days before collecting the sample. The semen is then prepared in the laboratory to separate the active sperm from the inactive sperm and seminal fluid. The process is similar if donor sperm is used.

Some patients may not be able to collect sperm using this technique for religious or other reasons. An alternative is to use a special condom during intercourse to collect the sperm. If this is something you are interested in, please discuss this with your nurse or doctor.

Specifics on what to expect from an IUI procedure

In some cases, it may be necessary for the female partner to take medication to induce ovulation if her cycles are not regular. The male partner will provide a semen sample one to two hours before the procedure is to be performed. The semen will be washed, a procedure in which the sperm is separated from the seminal fluid and the quality of the sperm is analyzed.

Following the wash, it is time for the insemination procedure, which only takes a few minutes and does not cause much, if any, discomfort for the female partner. The doctor will insert a small catheter into the uterine cavity through the cervix and inject sperm directly into the uterus. The patient is able to resume normal activity immediately following the IUI procedure. If pregnancy does not result from the initial IUI, the procedure may be repeated during the following cycles.