Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a fertility treatment that involves the placement of sperm cells directly into the uterus, in order to facilitate the fertilization process. Commonly referred to as artificial insemination, this procedure allows an increased number of sperm to reach the fallopian tubes, and therefore improves the chances of fertilization. The goal of intrauterine insemination is for the sperm to reach the fallopian tube and fertilize an egg, resulting in pregnancy. Depending on the reasons for infertility, IUI may be performed in conjunction with the normal ovulation cycle of the woman or with fertility medications that induce ovulation. Since this is a relatively simple treatment with few side effects, it is often recommended as an initial form of fertility treatment.
Intrauterine insemination may be performed without additional fertility medications, however a physician may encourage an ovulation induction treatment along with the IUI process, to increase the chances for fertilization. It is recommended that the patient abstain from sexual activity for two to three days before treatment.
The intrauterine insemination process is relatively simple. First, a semen sample will be collected and then processed in a lab to separate the sperm from the seminal fluid. The separation process separates out active sperm and concentrates them into a small volume. The sperm is then washed and prepared for insemination. Sperm washing cleanses the sperm of mucus and potentially toxic chemicals which may cause adverse reactions in the uterus. This process is performed with the male partner's semen or donor sperm. At the time of ovulation, a catheter is used to inject the prepared sperm directly into the uterus. This is a minimally invasive procedure performed quickly in the doctor's office with minimal discomfort. Patients may experience mild cramping during the procedure and light bleeding afterward. After implantation, the doctor will advise the patient to remain lying down for at least 15 minutes up to a few hours to optimize the pregnancy rate.
A pregnancy test can usually be taken two weeks after the IUI procedure, although the doctor will provide specific instructions for each individual patient. Many couples will require more than one cycle of treatment in order to become pregnant, with the most successful results occurring in women under the age of 35.
Ovulation induction is a procedure in which medication is used to stimulate a woman's ovaries to ovulate and produce eggs. Ovulation induction commonly uses fertility drugs to stimulate the follicles in the ovaries in order to produce multiple eggs during each menstrual cycle. This process is often performed as a fertility treatment. With additional control over the timing of egg release, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of fertilization. These medications may be used to assist with fertilization naturally through sexual intercourse, or in conjunction with in vitro fertilization, or IVF. In extreme cases when medication to induce ovulation has been unsuccessful, surgery may also be performed to increase the chances of ovulation.
The medication may be taken for five days after the start of the period, for up to six months. If the patient has not achieved pregnancy after six months, the doctor will reevaluate and likely modify the treatment.
This test monitors growth of follicles (cysts on the ovary) containing eggs that can be fertilized each month. It also evaluates the lining of the uterus as well as its overall size and shape prior to and once pregnancy has been achieved.