Insemination is the placement of sperm in a woman’s reproductive tract, with the goal of creating a pregnancy. Insemination must take place during the woman’s most fertile time, about 24 to 48 hours before ovulation is expected, in order to have the chance for success.
When people talk about artificial insemination, they are most often referring to IUI, or intrauterine insemination. IUI is typically the first fertility treatment a couple will try. This simple procedure is often performed when there is unexplained infertility, endometriosis, or irregular ovulation. Intrauterine insemination is easier to do than assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, and the IUI procedure costs much less.
During this fertility treatment, a catheter enters through the cervix to deposit specially washed sperm directly into the uterus. Sperm washing is the separation of sperm cells from seminal fluids. It is done before the IUI procedure in order to remove chemicals and dead sperm that are harmful to fertilization. There are three types of sperm washing procedures, including the swim-up method, which collects sperm as they swim, the density gradient wash method, which separates sperm from debris, and the simple wash method, which accumulates only active sperm in a test tube.
While IUI is the most common, and most successful, type of artificial insemination, there are several other methods of transferring sperm to a woman’s reproductive system. Your infertility specialist will work with you to determine the best method to use for your particular situation.
Intravaginal insemination (IVI) is the easiest type of insemination, and it entails placing sperm into the woman’s vagina. Ideally, in the IVI insemination process, the sperm should be placed as close to the cervix as possible. This method of insemination can be implemented when using donor sperm, and when there are no issues with the woman’s fertility. Because success rates are lower than IUI, this form of insemination isn’t used very frequently.
With intracervical insemination (ICI), the sperm is placed directly inside the cervix, using a needle-less syringe. In this procedure, it is not necessary for the sperm to be washed because the semen is not being directly placed inside the uterus. Of course, it still may be pre-washed in order to increase the chances of success.
It is important to note that ICI is more common than IVI, but less common than IUI. It is often used if a couple wants to save money on the treatment procedure, as ICI is less expensive than IUI, especially if the semen is not pre-washed. Success rates, however, for ICI are low.
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. Although 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 worth considering, depending on the cause of infertility. Speak with your infertility specialist to understand all of your options and risks.
Take control of your fertility and make an appointment with one of our compassionate and highly trained infertility specialists. The Center of Reproductive Medicine has full-service fertility clinics in Webster and Beaumont, providing world-class treatment with some of the highest success rates in Texas.