IUI What to expect before and during the procedure
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure designed to give sperm a boost – by placing a high concentration of moving sperm into the uterus (closer to the site where fertilization occurs in the Fallopian tube).
During sexual intercourse, sperm have to leave the semen and enter the cervical mucus. They have to then negotiate their way through the cervix and swim into the uterus. They then enter the openings of the Fallopian tubes at the top of the uterus and swim into the fallopian tube before finding the egg. With IUI, the sperm are placed high into the uterine cavity. This gets them about half way to their ultimate destination. In addition, the sperm processing procedure activates the sperm, increasing the likelihood that they will be able to fertilize the egg when they reach it.
IUI is a reasonable treatment for all patients with mild to moderate male factor. Pregnancy rates are higher when at least 10 million moving sperm can be inseminated.
Processing the sperm
Besides giving the sperm a head start, the semen specimen is “washed” for an insemination which is a process whereby the best sperm (normally shaped and motile sperm) are removed from the semen for placement into the uterus. During the wash, the semen specimen is placed in a tube on top of a column of tiny beads. The tube is then placed in a centrifuge and spun for 20-25 minutes.
The centrifugation helps the normally shaped, motile sperm swim to the bottom of the tube. The abnormally shaped sperm and non-motile sperm remain at the top of the tube along with the liquid part of the semen and any bacteria or other debris that should not be placed in the uterus. The desired sperm are then placed into a small catheter (a flexible plastic tube) which is painlessly passed into the uterus by one of our physicians.
The IUI procedure itself takes less than one minute and typically causes minimal to no cramping. We will then ask you to lay still for about 10 minutes before you resume your normal daily activities.
Your partner can collect a semen specimen either in your home or at Ovation® Fertility. The best method of collection is masturbation. If you collect at home, we will provide you with a cup in which to collect the specimen. You should not use any sort of lubricant other than water because lubricants can reduce motility or even kill the sperm.
You will simply bring the specimen to Ovation within one hour of the time it was collected and, after we verify your identity, our staff will take it for processing. Please keep the specimen at room or body temperature from the time it was collected until the time it is dropped off. Please do NOT let the specimen sit in the hot Texas sun in a hot car, as the sperm will be dead by the time they are processed.
If you would like to collect in the office, just let us know. We understand that this is an awkward process for you. But please know that this is a normal, everyday procedure for us. Please don’t feel embarrassed!
For more information on IUI, please visit ASRM’s fact sheet HERE.