Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a procedure where sperm is introduced directly into the uterine cavity around the time of ovulation, in the hopes of producing a pregnancy.
Sometimes in the course of fertility treatment, your doctor may recommend that you have an IUI with the goal of increasing the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes to increase the chance of fertilization. It can also be used as an additional intervention if the traditional method has been insufficient to produce a pregnancy after a few cycles. The procedure is also used by same-sex couples or single women that want to become pregnant without a male partner.
Artificial insemination can benefit couples or individuals with a range of needs.
In the United States, 6 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years are unable to conceive or maintain a pregnancy after one year of unprotected sex.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that a woman should consider seeing a fertility doctor to discuss treatment if she is:
- unable to conceive within one year of trying
- prone to irregular periods
- over 35 years of age and trying to conceive
Doctors also recommend fertility treatment if a woman has two or more spontaneous miscarriages.
IUI can help in the following medical situations:
- IUI can help support a couple that produces healthy sperm and eggs but is unable to have intercourse, possibly due to a medical condition, such as erectile dysfunction.
- In women with cervical factor infertility, the cervix either does not produce the mucus that helps sperm travel to the womb, or the mucus contains a substance that kills the sperm. Artificial insemination can help bypass this problem.
- Endometriosis causes the cells from the womb lining start to grow outside the womb, for example, in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes. Artificial insemination can be successful in mild to moderate cases of endometriosis. Many women with endometriosis can conceive naturally.
- In rare cases, a woman may have an allergic reaction to certain proteins in sperm or semen. The artificial insemination can remove most of these before applying the sperm.
- Some men are unable to produce enough sperm for successful fertilization, or their sperm may not be sufficiently motile. This means the sperm cannot move towards the egg effectively.
- Certain medical treatments carry infertility as a risk, such as radiation therapy.
Before the treatment, a man can freeze some of his sperm for future use in artificial insemination.
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