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What's Involved With an IUI?

The IUI Procedure

The IUI will be scheduled after a woman has had an LH surge or taken the hCG trigger shot. The IUI procedure only takes a few minutes. The woman will lie on an examining table, and the healthcare provider will insert a speculum into her vagina to see the cervix. A narrow tube called a catheter is inserted through the cervix into the uterus, and the washed semen sample is slowly injected.
 
While this procedure can be uncomfortable, it should not be painful. A woman may experience some mild cramping, however. In many cases, your healthcare provider will ask that you remain lying down for several minutes after the procedure.
 
Your healthcare provider may recommend IUIs for at least three to six times before moving on to another fertility treatment. If an IUI is unsuccessful, there are other options and approaches you can try (see What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)? for more information on other possible fertility treatments).
 

How Often Does an IUI Work?

The success rates for an IUI will largely depend on the cause of infertility (if it is known). In general, an IUI will work the best for men when the majority of their sperm does not move and for women whose cervix prevents sperm from entering the uterus. However, an IUI may not work quite as well for men who produce fewer sperm.
Also, it does not help women who have severe fallopian tube disease, moderate-to-severe endometriosis, or a history of pelvic infections. In these cases, other fertility treatments may be more effective (see What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?).
 
Although the pregnancy rates for women who have an IUI may not be quite as high as they are for some of the more advanced techniques, an IUI has its own advantages. For instance, an IUI is a simple procedure with few side effects and fairly minimal costs compared with other, more invasive fertility treatments. IUIs can often be performed in smaller cities or towns that do not have the capabilities for more complicated fertility procedures.
 
On average, if IUIs are performed monthly with fresh or frozen sperm, the statistics on success rates can be as high as 20 percent per cycle, depending on whether fertility medications are used, the age of the woman, and the infertility diagnosis.
 
Research has also indicated that for women over the age of 40, a more aggressive approach (for instance, in vitro fertilization) may help lessen the time to conception, as the success rates of IUI are often fairly low in women of this age group. If you are concerned about your age and whether an IUI is an appropriate fertility treatment, talk to your healthcare provider about the best options for your individual situation.
 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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