IUI: Preparation and Details

IUI process at a glance

  • The male partner of the couple undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI) will provide fresh or frozen sperm at the time of the procedure; if donor sperm is being used, it is frozen and stored at our clinic.
  • For an IUI procedure, sperm are washed in a laboratory, concentrated, and warmed to increase fertilization chances.
  • Donor sperm are used if the male partner does not have enough motile sperm or carries a genetic disorder, or if the woman does not have a male partner.
  • For the woman, ovulation stimulation medication may be used during the weeks before IUI in order to cause multiple eggs to release.
  • For IUI to be successful, sperm must arrive in the fallopian tube when the egg is present.

IUI preparation: male partner sperm

The male partner of the couple undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI) will provide freshly ejaculated sperm at the time of the procedure or have already provided a sample that was frozen and then thawed. If donor sperm is being used, it is frozen and stored at our clinic, and then thawed for the IUI procedure.

Sperm collection is performed most commonly through masturbation, although occasionally electrical stimulator or a special collection condom used to capture sperm during intercourse may also be used. The best sample is obtained when the man abstains from ejaculating for two or three days before providing the sample. This increases sperm count, which in turn increases pregnancy rates.

Sperm washing

For an IUI procedure, sperm are washed in a laboratory, concentrated, and warmed. Sperm washing increases fertilization chances, as well as removes mucus and non-motile sperm from the semen. If the sperm are not washed, the woman may experience pain and cramping during the procedure.

Considerations for donor sperm

Donor sperm are used if the male partner does not have enough motile sperm or carries a genetic disorder, or if the woman does not have a male partner, as with choice moms or lesbian couples.Reputable sperm banks provide frozen sperm samples from donors who have been tested for transmissible diseases.

Donated sperm samples are obtained through masturbation at the sperm bank and then frozen. If sperm is being supplied through an acquaintance or relative, it must be quarantined for six months as a cryopreserved specimen before being used. The known donor is evaluated for sexually transmitted diseases at the time it is collected and then again after six months of storage. The sperm may then be used for donor insemination.

IUI preparation: female ovulation

The patient or doctor administering the IUI will monitor the woman’s menstrual cycle with ovulation kits, ultrasounds, or blood tests.

Ovulation stimulation medication (controlled ovarian hyperstimulation or COH) may be used during the weeks before IUI in order to cause multiple eggs to release. This increases the eggs-to-sperm ratio, raising the probability of a pregnancy occurring.

IUI timing

After ovulation occurs, the egg has a fertilization window of 12 to 24 hours. For IUI to be successful, sperm must arrive in the fallopian tube when the egg is present. In addition, sperm prepared for IUI treatment are not viable for as long as sperm introduced during intercourse, and so IUI sperm may not have as long to fertilize an egg. Therefore, the timing of the procedure is very important.

IUI procedure

When the egg is released and available for fertilization, the doctor will insert the semen into the uterus. A vaginal speculum is inserted, the cervix mucus is wiped away, and a small catheter is inserted into the uterine canal. Sperm are slowly inserted, then the catheter is removed.

The procedure itself is fairly simple and painless, although some women may experience brief, mild cramping. Generally an IUI takes only a few minutes to complete, and then the woman will rest on the table for 15 minutes afterwards.