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What Is IUI Treatment?

How IUI Works, When IUI Treatment Is Needed, and IUI Success Rates

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Updated April 09, 2014

IUI is a relatively simple procedure and can be done without anesthesia.

IUI is a relatively simple procedure and can be done without anesthesia.

Photo: Keith Brofsky / Getty

What Is IUI Treatment?

IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a relatively simple infertility treatment, where a small tube is used to place specially washed sperm directly into the uterus. You may know of IUI by the more commonly used term artificial insemination (AI). IUI and AI are one and the same fertility treatment.

When considering fertility treatments above and beyond fertility drug use, IUI may be the first tried. It's easier to do than assisted reproductive technologies, like IVF, and costs much less. According to a survey done by RESOLVE, the average IUI fertility treatment costs $895 (compared to $8,000 to $15,000 for IVF).

When Is IUI Treatment Used?

IUI may be used in some cases of male factor infertility, like low sperm counts or if a sperm donor is being used. IUI may also be used if the woman's cervical mucus is less than ideal. Also, in cases of unexplained infertility, IUI may be tried if Clomid (clomiphene citrate) alone doesn't help.

IUI may also be used if a couple would like to avoid the higher cost of IVF treatment. Even though IUI is less effective per cycle than IVF, a couple may be able to afford more attempts with IUI.

How Does IUI Treatment Work?

As mentioned above, IUI is pretty simple. While fertility drugs are not always used during IUI, most doctors choose to use an ovulation drug like Clomid to increase the chances of success.

Whether or not you're using fertility drugs, you'll probably be asked to use an ovulation predictor kit at home during the cycle that treatment is planned for. Once you detect the LH surge (the hormone that is highest right before ovulation and detected by ovulation kits), you'll need to call your doctor.

Assuming you're not using a sperm donor, your partner will be given instructions for sperm collection (sometimes it's done in the office; sometimes it can be done at home.) The doctor will then "wash" the collected sperm, and then, using a thin tube, the doctor will place the sperm directly into your uterus via the cervix.

Treatment is typically painless, with maybe a little cramping. It is performed in the doctor's office, and the procedure can be done by a nurse or a doctor.

How Successful Is IUI Treatment?

In a review of studies on IUI and unexplained infertility, just 4% of women got pregnant per cycle without fertility drugs, and 8% to 17% got pregnant when fertility drugs and IUI were combined.

Though IVF success rates per cycle are much higher, IUI is significantly less expensive, and a much easier procedure. If IVF is out of your price range, multiple IUI cycles might be the better choice, depending on the cause of infertility. Speak to your doctor to understand all your options and risks.

Sources:

Infertility in Women. A.D.A.M. Healthcare Center. Accessed February 3, 2008. http://adam.about.net/reports/000022_7.htm

The Costs of Infertility Treatment. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Accessed February 3, 2008. http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/the-costs-of-infertility-treatment.html

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