IUI Procedure

Understanding the IUI Procedure

If you’re dealing with infertility, you may be considering intrauterine insemination (IUI). The IUI procedure is a relatively simple and inexpensive option that has helped many couples conceive when they are dealing with low sperm count, cervical complications or other fertility issues.

Preparing for the Procedure

Timing is a major factor in preparing for an IUI procedure – more so, in fact, than it is for regular intercourse. Since the sperm is released directly into the uterus in this procedure, the sperm’s lifespan is shortened considerably and they must reach a viable egg in that brief time period.

Your fertility specialist may have started you on a course of ovulation drugs and will be closely monitoring your ovulation cycle. This will help him to determine the best timing for the sperm injection.

You can also monitor your ovulation at home by using a simple test kit which will monitor your luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. Your surge will peak about 12-24 hours before the egg is released, so if the home test is positive, you should have your IUI procedure performed the following day.

Sperm Collection and Preparation

If you are using sperm from your partner (rather than from a donor), the sample will first need to be collected and processed. Your partner will produce a sample at the doctor’s office in a private room. Collection will be scheduled approximately one hour before your IUI procedure.

Before the sperm can be placed in your uterus, it first needs to be processed. When a man ejaculates, the fluid contains both sperm and seminal fluid. Seminal fluid contains a group of chemicals called prostaglandins, and these chemicals can cause a number of unpleasant side effects if they are introduced directly into the uterus. For that reason, the sperm must be separated from the seminal fluid through a sperm wash.

After the semen has liquefied, it is thoroughly mixed with a chemical sperm wash solution and placed in a centrifuge. As the mixture spins in the centrifuge, the sperm separates and settles into a small pellet at the bottom of the test tube. The seminal fluid is discarded and fresh sperm wash media is added to dissolve the sperm pellet. Once it is mixed thoroughly, the sample is ready for the procedure.

Inserting the Sperm

The actual IUI procedure is quite quick and about as painless as a standard examination. When you arrive at the office, you will be shown into the examination room. You will need to undress from the waist down, and then cover yourself with a drape sheet on the examination table.

You will be asked to place your legs in stirrups, and a speculum will be inserted into the vagina as if you were having a pap smear. A catheter will be inserted through the vagina and cervix until it reaches the uterus, then your physician will inject the prepared sperm through the catheter.

Once the catheter and speculum are removed, you’ll need to remain on the examination table for a few minutes. After a brief wait, you’ll be able to get up and carry on with your day. There’s no need to rest after leaving the doctor’s office, as staying prone will not increase the procedure’s effectiveness.

In some cases, your physician may recommend a second IUI procedure. If so, this will be performed the following day.


About a week after the procedure, you will return to the doctor to test your progesterone levels. He will also check your uterine lining with an ultrasound, and may be able to see whether or not the procedure was successful.


2 Responses to IUI Procedure

  1. Sarah on January 13, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Dear Jennifer,

    What is the success rate for the IUI procedure? Do most couples who choose this route end up pregnant?

    Thank you,


  2. Jennifer Myers on January 25, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Hi Sarah,

    Fertility is a complex field, and a huge number of factors must be just right in order for conception to take place. Because of this, there are fairly wide discrepancies between reported success rates. Some studies show a success rate as low as 6-8% per cycle, while other studies have reported up to 26% success. Obviously though, success rates aren’t extremely high and it typically takes more than one cycle to achieve pregnancy.

    I hope this helps,