What's Involved With an IUI?

Preparing for an IUI

If your healthcare provider recommends having an IUI to help increase your chance of pregnancy, you and your partner should be aware of what this involves. Understanding the process can help you and your partner decide whether this is a step you want to take.
An IUI can be done with or without the use of ovulation-stimulating drugs, depending on your particular situation and desires. It can be done using your partner's sperm or donor sperm. Prior to the procedure, your healthcare provider will evaluate whether there are any hormonal imbalances, infections, or structural problems.
Because the cervix naturally limits the number of sperm that can enter the uterus, an IUI can bypass that and place the sperm through the cervix and up near the fallopian tubes. This process helps increase the number of sperm that can try to fertilize the egg. It also makes the trip for the sperm to reach the egg much shorter.
An IUI is performed at the time of ovulation, which usually occurs within 24 to 36 hours after the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge is detected. This surge occurs when the pituitary gland in the female releases the LH hormone, which precedes ovulation. A spike in LH levels indicates that ovulation is about to occur. The LH surge can be detected using ovulation kits, which are urine test kits. Also, blood tests can be done to determine LH levels.
In some women, a "trigger" injection of hCG (a synthetic form of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin) can be administered. hCG helps the follicles mature and triggers the release of mature eggs from the follicles. Women who need to take medications to help the ovaries develop follicles often receive the hCG trigger shot to assist in the final maturation process and ensure the mature eggs are released from the follicles.
Your healthcare provider will use blood tests and ultrasounds to closely monitor the progress of your developing follicles -- usually beginning around day 6 of your cycle. He or she will know when your eggs are ready to be released by measuring the size of your follicles. Once the follicles are mature, your healthcare provider will tell you when and how to take the trigger shot. It can be given as an injection just beneath the skin (subcutaneously) or into a muscle (intramuscularly). You can do this injection yourself.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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