Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination (AI), is often one of the first infertility treatments patients pursue. IUI is a fairly simple and painless procedure, offered at a lower cost compared to other, more complex fertility treatments. It is an in-office procedure where specially prepared sperm are placed into a woman’s uterus to fertilize an oocyte (egg). This may be performed in conjunction with hormonal stimulation of the ovaries in order to have multiple eggs present, increasing chances of pregnancy.
There is a 5 percent to 20 percent chance of pregnancy per cycle when using IUI, which is increased when the woman takes hormonal stimulation medication.
IUI is often used for low-severity male factor infertility (problems with sperm) and for couples with an unexplained infertility diagnosis. Other IUI candidates include patients using donor sperm, such as lesbian couples, single-mothers-by-choice, or in couples where the male partner has no sperm present.
For most women, it takes three to six cycles of IUI before pregnancy occurs or they decide to try a different option. Because IUI effectiveness is lower, many infertility patients will eventually move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Some may skip IUI altogether to pursue IVF because there is a chance it will be faster and less expensive. In addition, IVF offers a higher success rate – with a 40 percent to 60 percent chance of pregnancy per cycle. Success rates in IVF vary depending on multiple patient factors.
Intrauterine insemination is favored over other types of AI due to the higher concentration of sperm entering the upper female reproductive tract. This increases the odds of a sperm binding to and fertilizing an egg. Other AI options, such as cervical or vaginal insemination, offer lower pregnancy rates than IUI so are not performed frequently.
When the woman is using hormonal stimulation medication to produce more than one egg, conceiving a twin pregnancy is the biggest risk in performing IUI.