This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, host of the Egg Whisperer Show.
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while without success, you might need a little help. There are so many options out there, and we know it can all get a little confusing trying to figure out the best path to take. That’s why we’re here, and in this article we’re going to tell you about one of the oldest and most common fertility procedures available: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).
Who usually tries an IUI?
The best candidates for IUI are:
- Couples with unexplained infertility
- People with cervical mucus problems
- People with low sperm count, or motility issues
- People with impotence or who struggle with premature ejaculation
- Single Mothers By Choice or solo-parents
- LGBTQ+ couples
- People with semen allergies or vaginismus
Also, IUI can only be an option for people with a healthy uterus, and at least one fallopian tube that is open.
What exactly is an IUI?
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is the process of putting sperm directly inside your uterus. This medical procedure bypasses the semen’s usual journey through the vaginal canal and cervix - with the goal of increasing the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes.
An IUI is done at a doctor’s office, and often in combination with oral or injectable ovulation-inducing drugs. A doctor continuously monitors their patient’s ovulation with blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds.
The IUI procedure is timed to occur during a patient’s most fertile window. When it’s time to do the insemination, the partner or donor sperm sample is “washed”. This process separates the sperm from the semen, removes non-moving sperm, and eliminates any disease-carrying material.
In order to get the sperm inside the uterus, the doctor attaches a syringe, filled with the washed sperm, to the end of a long, thin, and flexible tube called an IUI catheter. The catheter is then inserted into the vagina, through the cervical opening and then into the uterus – where the syringe filled with sperm is released into the top of the uterus.
How much does IUI usually cost?
The cost of an IUI depends on whether or not you have any insurance coverage for this type of procedure, as well as what the doctor’s fees, and medication costs will be and whether you're using frozen donor sperm. If you’re paying out of pocket the procedure typically runs between $400 to $2,000 per attempt.
What's the average success rate of IUI?
When you look at the statistics for success rates, you should keep in mind that they are only an average and that everyone has their own mitigating factors to throw into the mix. But it’s good to keep your expectations grounded, and knowing the numbers may help with that.
Just like all fertility treatments – and even when you’re trying to conceive the old-fashioned way through sexual intercourse – your age impacts success rates. When it comes to IUI – if you’re under the age of 35, you have a 10 to 20 percent chance of success with each attempt. If you’re 35 to 40 years old, you’re looking at a success rate of around 10 percent. The number drops significantly for women over the age of 40 – who have a success rate of between two and five percent.
Those success rates could improve if fertility drugs are used in combination with the IUI process.
The number of IUI attempts is also a factor. Doctors say that the best chance of success is within the first three.
How is IUI different from IVF or ICI?
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and Intracervical insemination (ICI) are three ways to help people conceive. The first two – IUI and IVF – are medical procedures that are done by a doctor, at a fertility clinic or surgery center. An ICI is typically a do-it-yourself process, done at home, with a specially designed syringe.
ICI and IUI procedures are similar in that sperm is introduced into the female reproductive tract, however that is where the similarities end. An ICI delivers “unwashed” sperm to the cervical opening. An IUI delivers “washed” sperm into the uterus. IVF is a completely different process.
The IVF procedure starts with taking injectable hormones so that several eggs mature at the same time. Then a doctor surgically retrieves the eggs. In a lab, the eggs are mixed or injected with “washed sperm” – with the hopes that they will fertilize. An embryo is then transferred directly into the uterus. That’s where an embryo will hopefully stick and grow.
ICI is the simplest and least expensive of the three techniques. However with IUI, and IVF, the sperm is screened and cleaned before being used, which is sometimes necessary with certain types of male factor infertility.
We hope this information has helped, and we wish you success! Please always feel free to reach out if we can help support you in any way - no matter your path taken.