Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the process of placing sperm into a woman’s uterus at the time that an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation). Sperm used during this procedure are either from the woman’s male partner or from a sperm donor. The sperm is “washed” or separated from the seminal fluid to make the sperm more mobile and increase the number of sperm. The greater the number of moving sperm means a higher likelihood that sperm will locate an egg.
To place the sperm inside the uterus, a speculum is gently inserted into the vagina, and a very thin catheter is passed through the cervix into the uterus. This procedure causes no more discomfort than a pap smear. The washed sperm is then released from the catheter. The IUI process does not guarantee that the egg and sperm will come together to form an embryo (fertilization). The sperm must reach and fertilize the egg on its own.
IUI is used for a variety of conditions, including male infertility, cervical or mucous problems, and to more exactly time the interaction of the sperm with the ovulating egg. For many patients and couples undergoing IUI, hormone medications are needed and/or recommended to enhance the female partner’s fertility.