Intrauterine Insemination: the Advantages and Disadvantages
If IVF is the first thing you think of when you hear “fertility care” you’re not alone. Although IVF has revolutionized fertility medicine since the first successful IVF pregnancy in the 1970s, there are many other treatments that might be more appropriate. So, depending on the cause of your fertility challenges (male/female), a great place to start might be a low complexity therapy like intrauterine insemination (IUI).
History of IUI
IUI is one of the first types of fertility intervention procedures recorded. The first documented use of IUI was in London in the 1770s by John Hunter, sometimes referred to as “the founder of scientific surgery.” In John Hunter’s time, semen was collected post-coitally with a “warmed syringe.” Thankfully, advancement in medicine and technology have made the processes simpler, more controlled, and more effective.
IUI is most often recommended for: couples with unexplained infertility, male factor infertility - usually meaning low sperm count or poor sperm motility - or for couples or individuals using donor sperm.
Overall, the procedure is simple and can be broken down into 3 main steps:
- Ovulation is tracked to identify a fertile period
- Semen is collected and washed
- Sperm is inserted directly into the uterus using an insemination catheter
Sperm washing is important for two reasons: it removes everything but the healthiest and most mobile sperm which have the best chance to reach the egg, and because inserting semen directly into the uterus can cause cramping and pain. Once ovulation is triggered and the sperm is prepared, the actual IUI is very similar to a pap smear. A speculum is used to gently expand the vaginal walls, and then the insemination catheter is inserted through the cervix to inject the washed sperm.
Advantages of IUI
IUI has two main advantages over other types of fertility treatments. It is:
- Less invasive
- Less expensive
Because the eggs don’t need to be removed from the body, the whole process is far less invasive for the woman carrying the pregnancy. IUI also costs less than IVF since no egg extraction or laboratory monitoring is needed. Sounds pretty good, right?
Disadvantages of IUI
Though IUI can be a great option for some people, it does not address several factors that might be causing your infertility. For IUI to be effective, the woman carrying the pregnancy needs to be ovulating and have healthy and undamaged fallopian tubes, and the sperm used has to be healthy and mobile enough to reach the egg. Depending on the cause (or causes) of your infertility, IUI might not be enough to help you successfully get pregnant.
What Comes Next?
If you are over 35 and have been struggling to get pregnant for more than six months, or under 35 and have been trying for over a year, it may be time to consider fertility treatments.
Whether you need IUI, semen analysis, IVF, or a combination of treatments, our fertility experts are here to answer your questions and advise you on the best treatments for you, your family, and your goals. Contact us today!