Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is one of the methods to treat infertility that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. The main objective of IUI is to increase the sperm quantity that reaches the fallopian tubes and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization.
This treatment provides the sperm an advantage by giving a head start but the sperm has to reach and fertilize the egg on its own. This method is less invasive and less expensive when compared with IVF.
IUI treatment is mostly recommended for couples with unexplained fertility, male factor infertility like low sperm count or poor sperm motility, or for those couples using donor sperm. This procedure is simple and can be broken down into three main steps:
- Ovulation is tracked to identify the fertile period.
- Collection and washing of semen.
- Sperm is inserted directly into the uterus.
Advantages of IUI:
- It is less invasive
- It is less expensive when compared with IVF, ICSI.
- Less stress on the body
- Washing procedures enhance sperm quality- this process will remove prostaglandins, infectious agents, antigenic proteins, non-motile spermatozoa, immature germ cells, etc, as it results in quality sperm. This also decreases the formation of free oxygen radicals after sperm preparation and enhances sperm quality.
- The chance with IUI treatment is very high when compared to regular sexual intercourse.
- The procedure is performed with or without transvaginal ultrasound guidance; the doctor inserts the catheter into the vagina and cervix. The doctor then pushes the catheter through the cervical canal and points it towards the top of the uterus and right or left fallopian tube. Finally, the sperm is injected through the catheter into the uterus.
- The duration of the procedure takes only 15 -20 minutes and later you will be advised to stay in the recovery room for 20 minutes and leave.
- This procedure does not require anesthesia. It is not painful.
Disadvantages of IUI:
Though IUI is a great option for many couples it also has some challenges. IUI doesn’t address all the fertility challenges some times. A few disadvantages of IUI treatment are:
- Problems may occur if the below factors are not met such as clear and undamaged fallopian tubes.
- The partner carrying the pregnancy needs to be ovulating
- Sperm should have a certain level of motility.
- The success rate in IUI is around 20% when compared with other treatments like IVF.
- The risk of conceiving multiples increases due to the intake of fertility drugs. Therefore internal ultrasound is highly recommended.
- Some may experience a few side effects that are caused by the fertility drugs taken during the IUI treatment, not due to the procedure itself. The medications are prescribed to increase the chances of IUI success. These medications will stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple oocytes for the insemination. These medications may cause side effects like mood swings, hot flashes, breast tenderness, nausea, bloating, and headaches, swelling around the injection site, painful and swollen ovaries, pelvic discomfort, and ovarian cysts. These side effects will disappear once the medication is stopped. Always inform your doctor if there is any difficulty faced during an IUI cycle.