Intrauterine Insemination Can Help You Achieve Pregnancy

Pregnant woman at baby shower with friends touching her belly

Intrauterine insemination (IUI), available at our San Antonio, TX, practice, is one of the oldest methods used to address infertility. IUI is a method of artificial insemination that involves placing motile, concentrated sperm directly into the uterus, close to the unfertilized egg. Reducing the distance that sperm must travel can significantly increase your chances of becoming pregnant. During a consultation, one of our fertility experts can determine if IUI can help you to grow your family.

Candidates & Applications

IUI is typically recommended for couples who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for at least a year, or women who wish to become pregnant without a male partner. Doctors often recommend IUI when patients experience:

  • Unexplained infertility: Because of its minimally invasive nature and high success rate, IUI is usually the first recommended treatment to address unexplained infertility, along with medications to induce ovulation.
  • Mild male infertility (subfertility): The first step in infertility treatment involves a semen analysis to test the male partner’s reproductive potency. If the analysis suggests a problem with the his semen, then IUI can boost the sperm’s effectiveness. Low sperm count, poor movement (motility), or high concentrations of irregularly shaped sperm can often be overcome using IUI.
  • Cervical factor infertility: The cervix is the opening between the vagina and uterus. During ovulation, the cervix produces mucus that is meant to facilitate sperm traveling on their way to the uterus. However, sometimes this mucus may be too thick, and can impede the passage of sperm. Since an IUI places sperm directly into the uterus, it bypasses thick mucus that can contribute to cervical factor infertility.

IUI is necessary to impregnate women who choose to use donor sperm. The sperm sample is frozen until it is thawed and processed before insemination. As in other cases, IUI may be combined with medications to increase production of fertile eggs and improve the likelihood of pregnancy.

How IUI Works

Traditional artificial insemination techniques involved introducing sperm into the vagina, which was simpler than, but not nearly as effective as, IUI. IUI is a conservative treatment option, and often works even if the mother is not taking medications to increase her egg production. Nevertheless, Drs. Martin, Neal, and Retzloff may recommend taking hormone medications to improve the effectiveness of your IUI procedure.

IUI is a method of artificial insemination that involves placing motile, concentrated sperm directly into the uterus, close to the unfertilized egg. 

During the procedure, we will wash the semen samples at our on-site andrology and embryology laboratory, identifying and separating the healthy, motile sperm. Next, the concentrated semen will be injected directly into your uterus using a catheter, placing a high number of sperm within close proximity of your unfertilized eggs. The entire process takes little time, involves a minimal amount of discomfort, and significantly increases the possibility of conception.

Preparing for Your Procedure

The timing of your ovulation is critical for IUI success. Leading up to the procedure, your doctor will carefully monitor for signs of ovulation by observing your ovaries and folicle growth, and looking for a surge in your luteinizing hormone (LH). In order to increase your chances for pregnancy, your doctor may administer hormone medication injections in hopes of producing multiple eggs. In most cases, we will perform your IUI a day or two after ovulation is detected. Once both the sperm and egg are ready, we can begin the IUI procedure.

Meanwhile, you can improve your chances of conception by eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and two daily servings of full-fat dairy. Take a multivitamin containing folic acid each day and drink plenty of water. You should also avoid alcohol and limit caffeine at this time.

What to Expect during the Procedure

Minimally invasive and virtually painless, the IUI procedure takes about 30 minutes. During the procedure, you will lie on an exam table with your feet in stirrups, much like during a gynecological exam. Next, your doctor will inject the concentrated sperm directly into your uterus with a small, flexible catheter (tube), placing a high number of sperm within close proximity of your unfertilized eggs. You will be asked to lie still for about five to 10 minutes after insemination.

Once the procedure is over, you can return to normal daily activity. However, for the next day or two, you may experience light spotting and mild cramping. During your follow-up appointment, your doctor will monitor for signs of pregnancy.

Success Rates of IUI

Your IUI success rate is dependent on your cause of infertility, your age, and how many IUI cycles you are willing to undergo:

  • Women under the age of 35 have a 10 to 20 percent chance of pregnancy after one cycle
  • Women between 35 and 40 have a 10 percent chance of pregnancy after one cycle
  • Women over the age of 40 have a two to five percent chance of pregnancy after one cycle
  • Women who undergo three to six cycles have an 80 percent chance of pregnancy

Intrauterine insemination does have a higher success rate for younger women who are willing to undergo more than one cycle. However, if you have been unsuccessful in conceiving after multiple attempts, you may want to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Risks of IUI

Although intrauterine insemination is a safe and minimally invasive procedure, there are a few risks involved, including:

  • Infection
  • Vaginal bleeding, spotting, or mild cramping
  • Multiple pregnancy (if ovulation-inducing medications are used)

Virtually every medical procedure carries risks. However, it is important to remember that by choosing a reputable and credentialed practice with a high rate of success, you can significantly reduce the risk of complications and increase your chance of a successful outcome. At the Fertility Center of San Antonio, our doctors, staff, and facilities are held to the highest standards, and we take every measure to ensure the safety of our patients. Under our care, you can expect that your treatment is being administered in a sterile environment using only the most sophisticated tools and techniques.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are struggling to grow your family, but are unsure where to start, visit our experts to learn more about your treatment options. With over 25 years of experience, our doctors offer a unique combination of fertility science, knowledge, and expertise to help hopeful parents achieve their goals. To learn more, schedule a consultation today.

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