Screen_Shot_2024-06-18_at_11.jpegIntrauterine insemination (IUI) stands as a pivotal fertility treatment designed to increase the chances of pregnancy among couples facing challenges in conceiving naturally. IUI has a success rate of 5% - 15% per insemination cycle, with the majority of pregnancies resulting within the first four cycles.

Intrauterine insemination is a straightforward and minimally invasive procedure that significantly increases the chances of sperm meeting the egg by placing healthy sperm directly into the uterus. It is commonly recommended for couples experiencing unexplained infertility, minor male factor infertility, or issues with cervical mucus.

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Before opting for an IUI, it’s crucial to understand the key aspects of the procedure. AtAdvanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh, we are committed to guiding you through every stage of IUI, ensuring you are well-informed and supported throughout the process.

What is IUI & How Does It Work?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a medical procedure that aims to facilitate pregnancy by directly inserting sperm into a woman's uterus during her ovulation period. Unlike more complex fertility treatments, IUI is relatively straightforward and minimally invasive. The process begins with the careful selection of high-quality sperm, which can be from a partner or a donor. These sperm are then 'washed' in a laboratory to remove any impurities and concentrate the motile sperm cells.

The woman undergoing IUI may take fertility medications to stimulate ovulation and increase the number of available eggs. Once the timing is optimal, typically around the time of ovulation, a thin catheter is used to place the prepared sperm directly into the uterus. This proximity to the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs increases the likelihood of sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg. 

IUI is usually performed in a doctor's office without the need for anesthesia, and the entire procedure is quick, often taking just a few minutes. Each of these steps works in conjunction to improve the chances of conception, making IUI an effective choice for many individuals and couples looking to start a family.

Is IUI Treatment Effective?

The success of IUI varies based on the underlying cause of infertility. It is most effective for individuals with unexplained infertility or those dealing with cervical mucus problems or ejaculation issues. However, IUI may not be as successful for conditions such as fallopian tube disorders, endometriosis, or severe sperm impairments. In such cases, treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilization) could offer a higher success rate.

Comparing IVF & IUI: Key Differences

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are distinct fertility treatments that differ primarily in how and where fertilization occurs. In an IUI procedure, fertilization takes place within the body. A sperm sample is collected and then 'washed' to isolate the high-quality sperm. This prepared sample is inserted directly into the uterus using a thin catheter during the woman’s ovulation period, thereby increasing the chances of the sperm reaching the egg.

In contrast, IVF involves fertilizing the egg outside the body in a laboratory setting. The fertilized egg, now an embryo, is then transferred to the woman's uterus. While IUI is less expensive and less invasive compared to IVF, it also has a lower success rate per cycle.

What Are the Reasons for Performing IUI?

People choose IUI for many reasons, such as infertility issues, or as a reproductive option for same-sex female couples or females who wish to have a baby without a partner, using a sperm donor. Intrauterine insemination may be used when these conditions are present:

Cervical Mucus Problems or Other Cervical Issues

The cervix plays a crucial role in conception by producing mucus that helps sperm travel from the vagina, through the uterus, to the fallopian tubes. However, thick or abnormal cervical mucus can create a barrier that prevents sperm from swimming efficiently. IUI bypasses the cervix entirely, placing sperm directly into the uterus, thereby increasing the chances of fertilization.

Low Sperm Count or Other Sperm Impairments

A semen analysis, which is part of infertility treatment, might reveal issues with the partner’s sperm such as low count, poor motility, or abnormal shape. IUI can help overcome these obstacles by selecting only high-quality sperm and concentrating these cells for insertion, thus elevating the likelihood of conception.

Use of Donor Sperm

For individuals or couples using donor sperm, IUI is a common method. This is known as donor insemination (DI). It is used when the partner has no sperm or when the sperm quality is too poor for use. Single women and same-sex female couples who wish to conceive can also benefit from this option.

Ejaculation or Erection Dysfunction

IUI can be a solution when one partner faces challenges in achieving or maintaining an erection or in ejaculating. By directly placing sperm into the uterus, IUI bypasses these difficulties and provides a direct route for sperm to reach the egg.

Semen Allergy

Although rare, some individuals experience an allergic reaction to their partner’s semen, causing symptoms such as burning, swelling, and redness in the vagina. During IUI, sperm washing removes the proteins responsible for these reactions, making it a viable option for those with semen allergies.

Unexplained Infertility

In cases where healthcare providers cannot determine the cause of infertility despite thorough evaluations, IUI can still offer a method to enhance the chances of conception. For many, this procedure serves as an intermediate step between natural conception and more complex treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

With the guidance and support at Advanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh, patients can navigate each step of IUI effectively and improve their chances of starting a family.

What is the IUI Treatment Process Like?

Every treatment plan and healthcare provider may have a slightly different process. IUI treatment typically includes the following steps, along with its associated benefits:


Your healthcare provider will need to know exactly when you’re ovulating. The timing of ovulation is critical to make sure sperm is injected at the right time. Determining the time of ovulation can be done using an at-home ovulation prediction kit that detects luteinizing hormone (LH). Your healthcare provider can also detect LH in blood tests. They may also use transvaginal ultrasound to look for signs of mature eggs. 

Sometimes, you’re given an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or other fertility medications to make you ovulate one or more eggs. Ovulation typically occurs around 10 to 16 days after the first day of your period. Insemination (inserting the sperm into your uterus) usually occurs within 24 to 36 hours after LH is detected in your blood or urine.

Semen Sample Preparation

Your partner provides a fresh sperm sample on the day of the IUI procedure. In some cases, your partner can provide the sample beforehand, and your healthcare provider can freeze it until it is time to be used. If you’re using a sperm donor, the sample will be thawed and prepared. 

Sperm is prepared for insemination through a process called “sperm washing” that pulls out a concentrated amount of healthy sperm. If you’re using donor sperm, the sperm bank usually sends sperm that’s already washed.


The insemination procedure is simple and takes just a few minutes. You’ll lie down on the exam table. Your healthcare provider will insert a speculum into your vagina — similar to what happens during a Pap test. Next, a catheter is inserted through your cervix into your uterus. Finally, your healthcare provider injects the washed sperm sample into your uterus. 

You may be asked to lie down for 10 to 30 minutes after insemination. Pregnancy happens if sperm fertilizes an egg, and the fertilized egg implants in the lining of your uterus. You may be given progesterone after IUI. Progesterone helps maintain the lining of your uterus and can improve the chances of implantation. 

What Are The Benefits of IUI Treatment?

  • Enhanced Fertilization Chances: By placing sperm closer to the egg, IUI increases the likelihood of fertilization compared to natural attempts.
  • Overcoming Sperm Impairments: Sperm washing and direct insertion improve the chances for those with low sperm count or poor motility.
  • Bypassing Cervical Issues: IUI bypasses thick or hostile cervical mucus, enhancing sperm’s journey to the egg.
  • Solution for Ejaculation Issues: It offers a method for couples dealing with ejaculation or erection dysfunction to achieve pregnancy.
  • Viable for Donor Sperm Use: It is an efficient and less invasive option for single women or same-sex female couples using donor sperm.
  • Assisting Unexplained Infertility: Provides a step between natural conception and more invasive procedures like IVF for those with unexplained infertility.

Please consult with your healthcare provider to get the best understanding of the IUI process and what to expect.

What Happens Before IUI Treatment?

Before beginning IUI treatment, thorough preparations are crucial to increase the chances of a successful conception. Below are the steps and considerations you should take into account:

  • Uterine Exam
  • Ultrasounds
  • Semen Analysis
  • Screening for STIs and Other Infections

In addition, a series of blood tests might be required to check hormone levels and ovarian reserve, as well as to rule out other medical conditions that could impact fertility.

How Long Does IUI Treatment Take?

An IUI cycle spans roughly four weeks, mirroring a normal menstrual cycle.

The insemination process itself is quick, only taking a few minutes to place the sperm into the uterus. Afterward, you may be asked to rest for about 15 minutes to improve success chances. 

What Happens After IUI Treatment?

After undergoing IUI treatment, it's common to experience some mild symptoms. You may feel mild cramping similar to menstrual cramps, and there could be spotting for one or two days. Despite these minor symptoms, most people return to their normal activities right away without significant discomfort. 

It is recommended to avoid activities that make you feel uncomfortable, though there usually aren’t any specific restrictions following the procedure. To determine if the treatment has been successful, you can take a pregnancy test approximately two weeks after the insemination. This waiting period allows enough time for implantation to occur and for pregnancy hormones to be detectable

Embark on Your Journey to Parenthood!

Our dedicated team of specialists atAdvanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh is here to provide you with compassionate and personalized care every step of the way. Whether you're considering IUI or exploring other fertility options, we are committed to helping you achieve your dream of starting a family.

Don't wait—Book an Appointment now and begin your journey with us.

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