Family Fertility Center

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

Improving pregnancy rates

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the process of placing a highly concentrated and motile sample of sperm into a woman’s uterus when she’s ovulating to increase the chance of fertilization and improve pregnancy rates. The sperm can be from a male partner or a donor. It can also be sperm that was previously collected and frozen.


IUI and ovulation induction

The IUI procedure is often combined with ovulation induction therapy, a fertility treatment that uses medications to improve ovulation for a greater chance of conception. Combining the two treatments increases pregnancy rates by improving both the release of an egg from the ovaries and the delivery of sperm to the egg.


Reasons for pursuing IUI

IUI is often used for:

  • Women with irregular ovulation (oligoovulation), in conjunction with ovulation induction
  • Men with lower sperm counts or sperm motility issues
  • Same-sex couples using donor sperm
  • Patients with unexplained infertility
  • Women with cervical issues that make it hard for the sperm to reach the egg
  • Men with ejaculation dysfunction
  • Those seeking a more conservative approach before considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) 


How IUI works

IUI is a simple, quick procedure performed in the clinic by our experienced specialists. The process is like a Pap test, with no medications or pain relievers needed. Steps in the IUI process include:

  1. Medications and monitoring, if combined with ovulation induction. When IUI is used in combination with ovulation induction, you’ll be prescribed oral medications to trigger the release of an egg from your ovaries. Our specialists will monitor your ovulation process and egg development using ultrasound and bloodwork and determine the optimum time for sperm insemination.
  2. Semen collection. A semen sample is collected from your male partner or a donor, or frozen sperm can be thawed for use. If a male partner is giving a fresh specimen, he’ll have an appointment in our men’s andrology clinic to give a specimen in our highly private setting. The IUI will be performed about 2 hours after processing the specimen.
  3. Sperm processing. The semen sample is processed in our andrology lab to remove debris and non-motile sperm. The processed sperm are then concentrated into a small sample that increases the likelihood of pregnancy.
  4. Inserting the sperm. The concentrated sperm sample is placed in your uterus using a long thin catheter (tube), maximizing the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and increasing the chances of an egg being fertilized. The sperm is inserted as close as possible to your time of ovulation. When IUI is used in conjunction with ovulation induction, the sperm are placed in your uterus 2 days after triggering ovulation (the release of eggs), optimizing your chances of conception.

After the IUI, you can immediately resume your normal activities. Pregnancy testing can be done about 14 days later.


How IUI differs from IVF

IUI is often used as a first-line therapy for certain causes of infertility, providing a more conservative, less invasive and less expensive treatment compared to IVF.

With IUI, the fertilization process all takes place within the woman’s body. In contrast, with IVF, the eggs and sperm are retrieved outside the body and fertilized in the lab. While IVF is more invasive, it does allow for genetic testing that isn’t possible with IUI.

The IUI process may be repeated over multiple cycles, with our specialists carefully tailoring your treatment each cycle to optimize your chance of conception. We’ll meet with you after each cycle to discuss your options and next steps, including whether transitioning to IVF is right for you.


Risks and side effects

When used in conjunction with ovulation induction, the risks and side effects of IUI may include:

  • Medication side effects. If fertility medication side effects occur, they’re usually mild and may include mood changes, hot flashes and, in rare cases, temporary ovarian enlargement.
  • Multiple gestation. Fertility medications increase the risk of becoming pregnant with multiples from about 3% to 8%. The chance of twins is increased with ovulation induction, but the chance of triplets does not increase. The risk of having triplets or more is less than 1%.


Holistic support

IUI can take an emotional toll on individuals and relationships. Your treatment may involve multiple steps separated by periods of waiting for critical results, with no guarantee of success.

At the Family Fertility Center, we’re helping our patients cope with the stress and anxiety of an infertility diagnosis and treatment through specialized support from reproductive psychiatrists at The Women’s Place at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, one of only a handful of programs in the United States dedicated to the care and treatment of women’s reproductive mental health.