IUI Pros And Cons

As early as the 1900's, artificial insemination was used to bring on pregnancy. In those days, the procedure wasn't very technical. All one needed to give it a try was good, old fashioned sperm and a turkey baster. In modern times, things have become a great deal more involved. The sperm needs to undergo a washing process, and equipment much more delicate and precise than a kitchen implement is used to place the sperm into the uterus. To top things off, the procedure now has a fancy name: intrauterine insemination, or IUI.

Important Applications

IUI isn't right for every fertility issue but does have important applications for specific types of infertility. For example, if you're allergic to sperm, or your partner has a low sperm count or sperm with poor motility, IUI may be just the ticket. IUI brings sperm straight to your egg, thus circumventing these express fertility issues. Then again, couples sometimes have an unexplained fertility problem and IUI often does the trick for them, too, whether or not we understand how this happens.

IUI is not a cure-all, though, and is contraindicated in the case where the male partner has very poor sperm motility. In cases such as these, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a better bet.

If your physician should decide that the IUI procedure may work for you, it's general practice for a fertility medication to be administered to you prior to insemination. This serves to improve the success rate of IUI. Fertility drugs are taken at the start of the menstrual cycle in order to encourage the ovaries to produce many mature eggs to be fertilized during the IUI procedure, instead of the usual one or two per cycle or month.

Optimal Timing

At this point you will make use of an ovulation detection kit, or your doctor can monitor your ovulation progress with the help of ultrasound examinations. Knowing when ovulation will occur helps your doctor to plan the optimum time for performing the IUI procedure. Your doctor may decide to administer medication to help trigger ovulation.

After ovulation occurs, it will be time for your partner to provide a sperm sample. The sperm is washed in a special procedure which serves to reduce the sample to a concentration of the healthiest sperm within a small amount of fluid. This washed and concentrated sperm sample is then inserted straight through the cervix and on into the uterus by means of a catheter. Two weeks later, a pregnancy test is performed to determine the success or failure of the procedure.

Success Rates

Though the procedure itself takes under an hour to perform, you may need to be on fertility medication for about a week before you ovulate. It's standard procedure for couples to undergo 3-6 cycles of IUI before reaching the goal of pregnancy, or before they give up and try something else.  Each cycle has a 5-20% chance of success with the addition of fertility drugs giving success rates in the upper spectrum of these figures.

IUI costs less and is not as invasive as IVF (in vitro fertilization) or ART (assisted reproductive techniques). The procedure is more effective than just timing sex according to the more fertile days of a woman's cycle.

The Downside

On the other hand, IUI requires your partner to masturbate into a cup at the doctor's office. It's also a given that you will both need to be available at the exact time of ovulation. Most couples receive a heads-up of 24-36 hours in advance of the time for the actual IUI procedure.