What Is IUI Treatment? Here Are 6 Things You Should Know Before Considering the Treatment

There are many couples out there who dream of holding their babies. While some couples are lucky enough to have a smooth pregnancy, there are others who may struggle to conceive. If getting pregnant seems to be a problem, do not worry. With today’s technology in the medical field, there are multiple ways you can get pregnant despite your fertility problem. 

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is a type of fertility treatment where sperm is placed directly into the womb. It is a common treatment for couples having fertility problems planning to conceive. If you are trying to understand what is IUI treatment, here are six things you should know before considering the treatment

  1.   IUI treatment is less painful.

IUI treatment, in general, is less painful. It uses less invasive tools than other fertility treatments like In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Doctors use a catheter, which is a flexible tool, to place the sperm into the womb. Some women might feel slight discomfort or cramping during the insertion, but the pain usually subsides within hours. If you experience pain for a prolonged period, you may call your doctor to get checked.   

  1.   You can opt for IUI treatment if you have mild fertility problems.

IUI treatment is usually recommended if couples have mild fertility problems. Mild problems may include the following:

  • Low sperm quality

A healthy sperm quality depends on healthy sperm count, motility, and shape. According to World Health Organization, a healthy sperm count should be around 15 million per millilitre (ml) or at least 39 million per ejaculation. Good sperm motility means at least 40% of sperm should swim forward with no problem. A sperm count within 10 to 15 million sperm per millimetre shows mild oligospermia; Sperm motility below 40% suggests low sperm motility. Doctors may recommend IUI treatment if the female counterpart has no fertility issues. However, it is best to consult the doctor so they can advise the best option for the fertility problem.

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  • Mild endometriosis
    Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium tissues grow outside the uterus. These growths are known as endometrial implants. Usually, these tissues build and shed every month during menstruation. However, the tissues that grow outside of the uterus cannot be shed, thus, gets trapped. These trapped tissues then form scarring and cysts. Mild endometriosis is a condition that includes a few small implants and scarred tissues in the reproductive organs. Doctors may suggest undergoing a few rounds of IUI treatment for this condition. However, if the endometriosis is severe, you may be requested to take other fertility treatments like IVF.
  • Cervical issues
    The cervical issue can also reduce the chances of pregnancy. If sperm cannot pass through the cervix, it may not reach the egg and fertilisation may not happen. Additionally, if the cervical mucus is thick and sticky, it can slow the sperm or even block the sperm from reaching the egg. IUI treatments allow the sperm to skip the process as sperm is directly placed in the uterus.
  • Unexplained fertility
    It is a condition whereby a standard fertility test cannot detect the cause of a couple’s fertility problem. You and your partner may have a healthy uterus, good sperm count and egg count but still unable to get pregnant. In this case, doctors may suggest IUI treatment to help couples get pregnant. 
  1.   IUI procedure is less complicated.

The duration of a complete IUI cycle can vary depending on your fertility problem. If only one counterpart has fertility problems, the process may end quickly. However, if a couple has fertility issues combined, it may take slightly longer to get pregnant. It may require more time, but the process is less complicated. Here is the step-by-step process for any IUI treatment so you can understand what is IUI treatment all about and what to expect during the procedure.

Step 1: Consultation with a doctor

Generally, a couple will start the IUI journey by consultation with a doctor before the procedure. The doctor may require the medical history of a couple. They may proceed with a blood test, a semen sample, an ultrasound scan and other relevant tests to determine the cause of the fertility problem.

Step 2: Ovarian stimulation
Depending on the problems, the doctor may give fertility medications or injections to stimulate the ovaries. It helps to increase the number of eggs released during ovulation.

Step 3: Monitoring and ultrasound
While taking medications, the doctor may ask to visit a few times to monitor the ovaries and the development of eggs. It ensures that the progress is going smoothly without complications in the development.

Step 4: Ovulation induction
Once the eggs mature, the doctor may give a ‘trigger’ shot to stimulate ovulation. It shortens the time of ovulation. These four steps can be skipped if the inability to get pregnant is due to male infertility.

Step 5: Sperm preparation
On the day of the procedure, the male counterpart will provide a semen sample. It is then washed to remove immobile sperm, debris, seminal fluid and other substances resulting in a highly concentrated sperm. This step is done to avoid any irritation in the uterus, and it also increases the chances of pregnancy.

Step 6: Insemination
During insemination, the doctor will use a catheter to insert the highly concentrated sperm into the uterus. There may be slight discomfort during the insertion, but it is entirely normal. The process takes only a few minutes to complete. Some women may be required to undergo a second insemination depending on their fertility problem.

Step 7: Pregnancy test

After the procedure, progesterone tablet will be prescribed. It is a hormone that prepares the uterine lining for a possible pregnancy. You may visit the doctor after three weeks of the procedure, to check whether or not you are pregnant. Alternatively, you can also check at home using the pregnancy kit.

  1.   IUI may not be the right treatment for every couple with fertility problems. 

Knowing what is IUI treatment isn’t enough. It is essential to understand the success rate of the treatment too. The success rate of IUI varies according to couples. They are mostly affected by factors like:  

  • Age
    Age affects the success rate of IUI treatment negatively. It decreases as the couple ages. Generally, the success rate for women 35 years old and below is around 15 – 20%. For women about 35 to 40 years old, the success rate decreases to 10%. Women who are 40 years and above may have an even lower rate of 9%. For older couples, doctors may suggest undergoing a few cycles of IUI to increase the chances of conceiving. Alternative fertility treatment may be suggested if pregnancy does not occur after three cycles of IUI. 
  • Infertility cause 

The success rate of IUI treatment also depends on the cause of infertility. Around 15% of couples with infertility are diagnosed with unexplained infertility. It can be due to poor sperm quality and(or) egg quality, blocks in fallopian tubes, uterus problems or ovulation problems that doctors could not detect during the fertility test. For unexplained fertility, doctors suggest IUI treatments, which often result in a successful pregnancy.

5.               Alternative treatment options

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IUI is less complicated. It involved placing concentrated sperm directly into the uterus for fertilisation. IVF involves the removal of eggs from ovaries, fertilising sperm and egg in a laboratory and placing the fertilised egg back into the uterus. In terms of severity, IUI is suggested for couples with mild fertility problems. Conversely, IVF is suggested for couples with severe fertility problems like severe endometriosis and extremely low or no sperm count. Additionally, the cost of IUI can be twice or thrice lesser than the price of IVF treatments.  

  1.   Maintain strong mental and physical health. 

Undergoing the IUI procedure can be emotional and stressful for couples trying to conceive. It can affect your emotional, mental and physical affect your well-being. The inability to express your emotions can be draining and overwhelming. It can cause depression, guilty and worthlessness. At times like this, preparing yourself for challenges is the best way to keep yourself in a positive light. Getting enough knowledge about what is IUI treatment, its cost, the procedures, and the success rate can prepare you to undergo the treatment.

Moreover, having good emotional and mental support can help you not give up during the process. It will give you enough willpower to cope with the journey. Here are some tips that can help you mentally and emotionally prepare for IUI treatment.

  • Get enough knowledge of your condition and treatment.
    It is best to gather as much information as possible about the IUI procedures and what to expect. You can talk to your doctor about your problem. They will be ready to provide you with the information you need.
  • Talk to your partner.
    Having open communication with your partner is vital during this time. Express your emotions and concerns with each other. Your partner is the one person that understands the situation well. Therefore, support each other throughout the process and have each other’s back.
  • Find a support group or talk to a counsellor.
    Find support groups through social media. Talking to people who have gone through similar experiences or situations can provide comfort and assurance. You can also speak to a counsellor who specialises in infertility. Talking to counsellors can help to cope with the challenges that may arise during the process. If you have trouble finding a counsellor, you can always ask your doctor or the fertility centre.

Patience is the key

The success of the IUI treatment is not guaranteed. Some couples may require two cycles, and others may require more than two. Some may not even be able to get pregnant through IUI. However, be patient and do not give up. Try watching videos, or read stories of couples with similar experiences. You may be able to find comfort and encouragement through the content. It may also be easier to go through the process now that you know all about what is IUI treatment.what is IUI treatment 3

 Learn more about IUI here : IUI

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. All contents here is general in nature and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Please consult with your health care professional to ensure you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

(Everybody has a chance to build a family) by Dr Navdeep