What is IntraUterine Insemination (IUI)?



IUI stands for IntraUterine Insemination, which is a type of artificial insemination, and one of many safe and reliable fertility treatments available to couples who are facing infertility challenges.

IUI not only offers a good success rate, it is also a non-invasive procedure and not as expensive as other fertility treatments.

In this article, we take a look at what IUI is, what the IUI procedure entails, who it is recommended for and what success rate can be expected.

What is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)?

Intrauterine insemination or IUI is a process during which a medical practitioner places sperm directly into the uterus during ovulation by a means other than sexual intercourse.

During natural conception, sperm must travel from the vagina through the cervix, into the uterus, and up to the fallopian tubes. IUI delivers the sperm directly into the uterus and thus makes the trip shorter for the sperm and also allows the sperm to get around any obstructions.

IUI is the oldest assisted reproductive technique, and remains the most common method of artificial insemination. It has also proven safe and effective over time. Your fertility specialist may suggest this method first as a treatment for infertility.

What does the IUI procedure entail?

A widely used form of assisted reproductive technology (ART), IUI is a fairly quick and simple procedure, compared to other fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). It is also safe and painless, as the IUI procedure entails little medical risk for the women undergoing the treatment.

The procedure is usually done in a fertility specialist’s examination room, in the late morning, and during the middle of the woman’s menstrual cycle. A woman’s natural cycle is often followed, with ultrasound and blood tests to check when ovulation occurs or stimulation can be given to grow eggs. IUI treatment can also be provided with special medications to stimulate ovulation.

During the IUI procedure, semen is introduced into the uterus by means of a syringe or a tiny flexible plastic tube that is inserted into the uterine cavity. Many women say that the procedure feels like a PAP smear.

The semen can be from the woman’s own male partner or from a male donor where the male partner is sterile. Another option is semen from the woman’s own male partner that have been previously frozen and stored in a sperm bank.

If IUI is done with the partner’s sperm, the partner must bring in a sperm sample on the morning of the procedure. The laboratory will improve the sperm sample through sperm washing before the IUI procedure is completed.

As mentioned, IUI can also be done with donor sperm. The sperm donor is selected prior to starting the treatment cycle. An appropriate donor is chosen by considering information about the donor’s age, physical characteristics, occupation, medical and family history, hobbies and personality. Sperm donation in South Africa is anonymous and therefore the identity of the donor is legally protected. (In other countries, such as the UK, children born following sperm donation may be entitled to find out the identity of the donor, but this is not the case in South Africa.)

At Cape Fertility, we have our own sperm donor programme. Since 1994, many couples, single women and same-sex couples have started and expanded their families thanks to our decent and healthy sperm donors, who are screened according to ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) guidelines to ensure they have no history of genetic disease or illness. In addition, a comprehensive semen analysis is done. A good semen analysis is crucial, ensuring the sperm function is still good after freezing and thawing prior to insemination. All donors have their blood and urine tested for any diseases and are seen by both a doctor and by a psychologist. Donor sperm is also only used after three months to ensure the donor is not in the window period of HIV infection.

For whom is IUI recommended?

Although the pregnancy rates achieved with IUI are lower than those achieved with in vitro fertilisation (IVF), IUI is both less expensive and less invasive, so it may be attempted as a first fertility treatment in many cases of infertility. It is also recommended for unexplained infertility, when the cause of infertility cannot be identified.

IUI is also recommended for women who are physically capable of conceiving and carrying a baby, but cannot fall pregnant through sexual intercourse, for a number of reasons, such male partner infertility or a same-sex partner. It is also recommended for women with minimal or mild endometriosis, and for those with ovulation problems, in combination with ovulation induction.

Traditionally, IUI was recommended for male infertility, where the male partner is impotent or struggling with erectile dysfunction, or is sterile. However, since the invention of Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), many men with low sperm counts can have their own biological children. ICSI is a procedure similar to IVF, except that with ICSI a single sperm cell – the best available – is injected directly into the egg.

As a result, IUI is now usually reserved for cases in which the male partner has no sperm cell production at all. Impregnation of a woman through IUI may also be used by women or men in same-sex partnerships who wish to produce children of their own. Single women may also choose to undergo IUI using donor sperm.

What is the success rate for IUI?

IUI is reasonably successful in achieving conception and pregnancy, although the pregnancy rates achieved are lower than with IVF. However, IVF is also more invasive and more expensive than IUI.

At Cape Fertility, we are very proud of our average success rates for IUI with partner sperm at 15%, and at 24% for IUI with donor sperm. Bear in mind that the success rates depend on many factors – with the most important being the age of the woman having treatment.

Which is the best clinic to get IUI?

A crucial factor in the success rate of IUI is the fertility clinic you choose at which to undergo your IUI treatment.

In South Africa, according to the National Health Act, only a competent person can perform IUI. When you have your IUI treatment at Cape Fertility, you will meet one of our four reproductive specialists: all with impressive qualifications and extensive experience, who are supported by a full team of fertility experts.

Cape Fertility is not only one of the best fertility clinics in the City of Cape Town, and also in South Africa and the world. In addition to our renowned specialists and experienced fertility experts, other reasons for this is our idyllic setting in Claremont in Cape Town, our superb facilities, our range of traditional and advanced fertility treatments, our excellent results and the inspiring feedback from our patients.

We offer IUI treatment at our premises, featuring purpose-built procedure rooms and a modern sophisticated laboratory adjacent to our Main Reception and Staff Offices. These facilities, along with our experienced team, ensure all the assisted conception techniques, including IUI, are used with great success at Cape Fertility.

Your first step receiving IUI treatment is simply to contact us by clicking here.

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with our signature individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates in the beautiful city of Cape Town.