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IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. During this procedure the male partner's semen sample is processed and placed directly inside the female partner’s uterus. It is a technique to overcome a variety of mild fertility problems that mostly occur in men.

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IUI is also carried out using donor sperm, which is called donor insemination. Donor inseminations become necessary when the male partner does not produce the minimal amounts of sperm for semen extraction procedures. Male infertility indications for IUI are:

  • Low sperm count
  • Low sperm motility
  • Cervical factor infertility
  • Sexual dysfunction

IUI is also carried out using donor sperm, which is called donor insemination. Donor inseminations become necessary when the male partner does not produce the minimal amounts of sperm for semen extraction procedures.

How does IUI work?

IUI is usually combined with ovulation induction, a process in which a woman's ovaries are mildly stimulated. Mild ovarian stimulation encourages ovaries to produce more than one mature egg. Having more than one mature egg means that the sperm have a better chance of fertilizing an egg. Ovulation induction with IUI, however, also creates a risk for multiple births.

What are the risks of IUI?

The main risk for IUI is the risk of multiple gestations, especially of high-order multiples (triplets or more). This is an inherent risk that is extremely difficult to avoid. Physicians try to strike the right balance between good pregnancy chance and a low risk for multiple gestations, but even in best of hands, high-order multiples may just happen.

Fertility practice has come to try to avoid multiple births, especially high-order multiples, because they carry elevated risks, especially of premature delivery. Our goal is not only to achieve pregnancy but to achieve responsible pregnancy with little or no risk to mother and newborns.

Should I choose IUI or IVF?

If repeated attempts to conceive are not successful, we recommend coming in for some basic testing in the hands of a specialist. A physician who practices a broad range of obstetrics/gynecology may have the best answer.

For many fertility patients, IUI is the gateway to infertility treatment. IUI can be a good starting point if:

  • The female partner is young—under age 35
  • Ovarian reserve is normal for your age
  • Cause of infertility is a mild male cause

IUI may not work if:

  • The female partner is over 35 years old
  • Both the tubes are blocked or damaged
  • Ovarian reserve is low (indicated by high FSH and/or low AMH)
  • Cause of infertility is a severe male factor
  • Wish to avoid multiple gestations
  • Multiple failed cycles of IUI

Is IUI less expensive than IVF?

Many patients choose IUI over IVF, thinking that IUI is more cost-effective. Insurance policies also tend to offer more generous coverage for IUI. Although IUI cycles are less costly on a per-cycle basis, it is not really more cost effective because of its much lower pregnancy rates.

Is IUI less invasive than IVF?

Once the treatment reaches ovarian stimulation stage, IUI and IVF cycles are very similar. Both require daily self-injections; both require monitoring with ultrasound and blood testing, and both take between 2-4 weeks. Because of egg retrieval in IVF, it is considered a little bit more invasive. However, most patients who have gone through both kinds of experiences will tell you that the difference is minimal.

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