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Infertility and treatment

IUI treatment – How it works

By Cryos | 3/11/2020
What is IUI treatment?

Going through fertility treatment on your way to creating a family is completely normal. If you are one of the many people who need a little help on your way to become parent(s), the first step is to investigate your options. There are various fertility treatments to choose from, but not everyone is a candidate for all treatments. One of the simplest treatments available is IUI treatment. Here, you can explore what IUI treatment is, how the IUI procedure works step by step and what the success rate is.

What is IUI treatment?

IUI is a type of artificial insemination and is short for Intrauterine Insemination. In this type of fertility treatment, the doctor injects sperm from a thin tube directly into the woman's uterus at the time of ovulation. This allows the sperm cells to get close to the egg, which increases the chance of a sperm cell fertilizing the egg. The procedure is performed at a fertility clinic and is very popular because it is both quick and nearly pain-free.

IUI treatment can be done with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm. If your partner’s sperm is used, this is often referred to as IUI-H. IUI treatment with donor sperm is also known as IUI-D.

The proces of IUI fertility treatment

An illustration on the proces of IUI treatment

The process of IUI treatment

For single woman and women in a homosexual relationship IUI treatment is a natural part of their journey towards a child. For heterosexual couples IUI treatment is an option when the efforts of conceiving naturally have not been successful. For heterosexual couples below the age of 35 it is recommended to try and conceive naturally through unprotected sex for up to one year before IUI treatment is performed. For heterosexual couples above the age of 35, the period is six months. If the pregnancy has not occurred in this time, it could be time for you to consult a fertility clinic, where you will discuss the next step with a fertility doctor.

  • Step 1: The IUI treatment usually starts with a fertility test, performed as an X-ray (hysterosalpingogram), to make sure that the woman receiving the treatment has open and healthy fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting the ovaries to the womb), as this is critical for the success of IUI treatment. If not, another fertility treatment such as IVF treatment might be recommended instead. For heterosexual couples, the man's sperm quality will also be tested. If the sperm quality is low, it might be necessary to use a sperm donor.
  • Step 2: You will either be offered an IUI treatment during a natural cycle or a stimulated cycle, depending on the regularity of your menstrual cycle. Either way, the insemination must take place during ovulation, which often happens 12 to 16 days before your next period. Your fertility clinic might do one or more ultrasound scans to determine the right time for the IUI treatment, and a mild hormone stimulation and/or an ovulation injection might be necessary to regulate the egg production and the time of ovulation.
  • Step 3: At the time of ovulation, the treatment is performed by a fertility doctor, who injects the sperm cells into the woman’s uterus. From there, the sperm will hopefully penetrate the egg and create a pregnancy. The IUI treatment itself takes no more than one or two minutes, and you can expect to be out of the fertility clinic after 15 – 20 minutes. The procedure requires no pain relief or medications, and the only side-effect of the treatment can be light spotting for a day or two after the procedure.

The result of the IUI treatment is visible through a blood test after two weeks. It is normal to be both anxious and excited during this time, which is why we have written this article on what to do during your two week wait.

When is IUI treatment an option?

Before deciding on any fertility treatment, you should always consult with a doctor who can help you determine which treatment gives you the best chances of pregnancy. If IUI is not a suitable treatment for you, the next step to investigate could be IVF treatment.

Heterosexual couples experiencing problems with fertility can benefit from IUI treatment. Using IUI treatment with sperm from a partner is called IUI-H and it is often used in cases where the man has slightly reduced sperm motility or the woman has irregular ovulation. The best candidates for IUI treatment are women under the age of 35 with healthy reproductive systems (fallopian tubes).

IUI treatment with donor sperm

Lesbian couples and single mothers-to-be can have IUI fertility treatment when trying to have a baby. Of course, this depends on the legislation in your treatment country.

IUI treatment with donor sperm is referred to as IUI-D and it is often used in cases where a male partner has very low sperm motility and quality or in cases of very low amount of sperm cells are produced. An important aspect of IUI treatment with donor sperm is the chióice of donor. Before you choose your sperm donor, we recommend you to think about the most important factors for you, like the level of information accesible. If you want inspiration on how to choose your sperm donor, we can recommend you to follow the link and read our blog post on the subject.

What is the success rate of IUI treatment?

According to a study, the success rate is approximately 18 % per cycle for women under 30, and this number declines with age. However, the success rate is highly dependent on various factors. In addition to the woman’s age, the chance of pregnancy depends on the clinic that performs the procedure, whether fertility drugs have been used, and the reason for having the treatment at all. Therefore, as previously mentioned, you should always consult a doctor regarding your chances of success in IUI treatment. The chances of becoming pregnant are different in each case.

This also means that it is difficult to know how much sperm you should order for your treatment, if using donor sperm. You may become pregnant in the first try, but it might also take a bit longer. To make sure that you have enough straws from your favourite sperm donor for the entire treatment, we recommend that you make a reservation of donor sperm when entering fertility treatment with IUI.

How to increase your chances in IUI treatment

When entering IUI treatment, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your chances of success. Since IUI treatment is a form of artificial insemination, your chance of success increases if you improve your fertility. The following advice on how to increase your chances of success in IU treatment is based on this study.

  • Diet: A general recommendation is to ensure a healthy and balanced diet that contains the vitamins and minerals, your body needs. Limit your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, as this increases the blood sugar, which can influence your hormone system and have a negative impact on your fertility and your chances of getting pregnant with IUI treatment.
  • Lifestyle: To increase your chances of success in IUI treatment, you should avoid smoking and drinking, as these are known as factors that reduce fertility. You should also try to minimize your caffeine intake to a maximum of 5 cups of coffee a day.
  • Stress: Research has shown that your level of stress could have a negative impact on your fertility and thereby your chances in IUI treatment. If you want to limit the stress factors in your life, we can recommend stress relieving activities such as yoga, long walks, or meditation.
Consulting with fertility doctor about IUI treatment

The difference between IUI and other fertility treatments

When you start your fertility treatment, it is normal to have a lot of different questions regarding the different types of fertility treatment. Therefore, we have tried to describe the difference between IUI treatment and the other types of fertility treatment available:

The difference between IUI and IVF treatment

In IUI treatment, the sperm is injected directly into the uterus using a thin tube. From there, the sperm must fertilize the egg to create a pregnancy. In IVF treatment, the egg is retrieved from the uterus and fertilized manually in a petri dish. If the fertilization is successful, an embryo is formed, which will then be transferred by the fertility doctor directly into the uterus, where a pregnancy hopefully occurs.

The big difference between IUI and IVF treatment is the egg retrieval process, which must be done before the embryo can be transferred back into the woman’s uterus. Because the fertilization is done outside the uterus, there is a higher chance of pregnancy using IVF treatment, but it is also more invasive than IUI treatment. IVF treatment is often the next step in fertility treatment if the IUI treatment does not result in a pregnancy.

A picture of the fallopian tubes

The two places of deposition in ICI treatment (1) and IUI treatment (2)

The difference between IUI and ICI treatment – and which type of sperm to use

Artificial insemination can be done as an IUI or ICI treatment. These two types of fertility treatment are quite similar in the way they are performed, as the only difference is where the sperm is placed. In an ICI treatment, the sperm is deposited in the cervix and in an IUI treatment the sperm is deposited in the uterus, which makes the journey shorter for the sperm cells.

The place of the sperm deposition determines which type of sperm to use. If you are having IUI treatment, it is important to use IUI sperm, which means that it is washed and removed of any natural ejaculate fluid. Using ICI sperm (unwashed sperm straws) to perform IUI treatment can cause the uterus to cramp and in some cases collapse. Unlike ICI sperm, IUI sperm can be used for both types of artificial insemination.

Follow the link to learn more about the difference between IUI and ICI sperm straws.

The difference between IUI treatment and ICSI treatment

ICSI treatment is an option when the man’s sperm motility and quality is not good enough to fertilize the egg. This means, that like IVF treatment, the egg will be manually fertilized by a fertility doctor, and from there placed in an incubator, where an embryo hopefully develops.

The difference between IUI treatment and ICSI treatment is the process of insemination and the egg retrieval. In IUI treatment the sperm cells are injected into the uterus to fertilize an egg, unlike ICSI treatment where the egg is fertilized manually by a fertility doctor.

Moving forward

If you are dealing with infertility, you are far from alone. Many people overcome infertility, and there are various possibilities and ways for you to become a parent despite dealing with infertility. Start by consulting your doctor to find out what options you have. With this knowledge, you can ask yourself what feels right for you and start planning your path to parenthood.

If you need donor sperm for fertility treatment, Cryos will be happy to help you get started. We have a wide network of fertility clinics around the world and our Customer Care can guide you in finding the right place for you.

Sharing experiences and talking to others in a similar situation might be helpful. You can join our Facebook group Family Dreams. Here you can talk to other women and couples who are going through fertility treatment with donor sperm.

Frequently asked questions about IUI treatment