Frequently Asked Questions about IUI

by Tiffany Carter Skillings, CPM, IBCLC, RLC

What is IUI?

IUI stands for intrauterine insemination.  This is a procedure performed with a healthcare provider where a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a uterus or womb.  With this catheter in place, sperm is pushed through the catheter and into the uterus.  The goal with IUI is assist in achieving pregnancy by giving sperm a head start in finding an egg to fertilize.

This is different from In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  With IVF, the egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body and then the fertilized egg is implanted into the womb.  With IUI, sperm fertilizes the egg inside of the body instead.

Why would I would consider IUI?

There are myriad situations that IUI can be helpful for.  IUI is a great option for people who do not have regular access to sperm such as people planning to be single parents or lesbian couples.  This can be especially true when there are no known fertility problems in the person planning to become pregnant.

Sometimes, people have difficulty achieving pregnancy with penile intercourse because of sexual dysfunction, ejaculation difficulties, acidic cervical mucus or other mild fertility challenges.  IUI helps to "bypass" this difficulties by depositing sperm into the uterus by an alternative method.

Is this the same thing as ICI?

Actually, no.  ICI stands for Intracervical insemination.  During ICI, sperm is deposited into the vagina in front of the cervix.  Sperm still needs to enter into the cervix and uterus to fertilize an egg that was released during ovulation.  This procedure can easily be done at home and does not require a healthcare provider to help.

How do most people acquire sperm?

Many people use sperm from sperm banks, which is one of the most common ways that people acquire sperm. Some of the benefits of getting sperm through a sperm bank is that the donors are screened for genetic conditions and STIs such as HIV.  Additionally, many sperm banks offer options for long term storage of sperm and limit the number of donations a person can make to limit the number of siblings with the same paternal DNA.  Lastly, some sperm banks have options for the donor's information to be released after the child's 18th birthday, if your child would like to pursue this option.

Purchasing sperm through a sperm bank can be a great expense and the costs for storage and shipping can be quite high.  This can be cost-prohibitive to many people.

Some people choose to use sperm from a known donor instead.  There are some added precautions that are needed to reduce the risks of STI transmission and legal issues for protecting or revoking parental rights.  This option can work well, however, for families that would like to use fresh sperm--rather than frozen as is typical with sperm banks.  Fresh sperm may be more viable than sperm that has previously been frozen and is now thawed. 

When is the ideal time for IUI during a cycle?

The most ideal timing for IUI is approximately 24-36 hours after a LH surge when testing with Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs).  If you were considering performing two IUIs during the same menstrual cycle, the recommended timing is at 12 hours and again at 36 hours after the LH surge.

How often does IUI work?

Most studies that evaluate IUI examine the outcomes for people with known fertility problems and who are using medications such as Clomid or hCG to assist with achieving pregnancy.  These studies suggest that IUI is successful approximately 18% of the time. 

What are the risks of IUI?

The primary risks include infection, particularly STIs such as HIV when using fresh sperm from a known, unscreened donor.  Risks of having twins are increased when using medications such as Clomid or hCG. 

How can I learn more about IUI?

Consider scheduling a free consultation to discuss IUI with Tiffany Carter Skillings, CPM, IBCLC, RLC.  Call today at 207-517-0386!