Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also referred to as artificial insemination, 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 the IUI procedure are typically “washed” and can either be obtained from the woman’s male partner or from a sperm donor. “Washed” sperm — or sperm that is separated from the fluid that it swims in (seminal fluid) — makes the sperm more mobile and increases the number of moving sperm within the reproductive tract. The greater the number of moving sperm means the greater the 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 is usually experienced during a pap smear. The washed sperm is then injected through the catheter. The IUI process, however, 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 conditions that cause women not to release an egg (ovulatory disorders). For many patients and couples undergoing IUI, the use of hormone medications is needed and/or recommended to enhance a woman’s fertility.