Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure where a very thin tube is inserted through the cervix, transferring sperm that is deposited directly into the the uterus.
While it is a simple procedure, an IUI is not something you can do at home due to sanitary issues and difficulty with inserting the tube correctly through the cervix. Therefore, an IUI must be performed by a medical professional, which is either a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), OB/GYN, or midwife who is trained and experienced with the procedure.
IUI is the least expensive assisted reproduction procedures available and usually ranges from $150 to $600 depending on which medical professional you seek services from, whether you use frozen sperm from a cryobank or known donor (known donor sperm requires additional testing and washing) and what type of blood work or monitoring is required. In addition to the cost of the IUI procedure itself, donor sperm from a cryobank will cost anywhere from approximately $350 to $1200 or more, depending on which cryobank you use, whether it is an anonymous or ID release donor, and how many vials you have shipped at once.
As a single woman, it is typically easier to use frozen sperm from a cryobank because it has already undergone rigorous testing and is easier to access. For IUIs, the sperm must go through a washing process. Washing is either done by the clinic itself, or by the cryobank if you chose “IUI-ready” or “washed” donor sperm. In order for known donors to be used, most fertility clinics require testing and joint counseling for both parties before treatment can begin. OB/GYN and midwives may not have such requirements.
Leading up to the IUI
In order to prepare for your treatment, the majority of fertility clinics will order a series of blood work to determine course of action to help get your body prepared. It is possible that your insurance will cover such testing, if it is performed by an in-network lab. It is also possible, if you are using a fertility clinic but live several hours away, to coordinate testing and monitoring efforts with your OB/GYN office.
Your doctor or midwife may advise you to begin taking supplements (prenatal vitamins and ubiquinol are common) or modify your nutritional intake to prepare your body months beforehand. In some cases, a fertility clinic may prescribe medication at the beginning of your treatment cycle that will assist in heightening follicle development and uterine lining. A fertility clinic will also monitor your follicle development during the cycle, sometimes 1 to 3 times using an ultrasound technique. You may also be asked to monitor your cycle in other ways, such as using OPK, recording your BBT, and checking your CM in the days leading up to your predicted ovulation. If you do not ovulate on your own, or if your fertility clinic advises, you will be prescribed medication known as a “trigger shot” that induces ovulation and makes it easier to time the IUI for success.
What to expect during an IUI
The IUI procedure itself takes less than 5 minutes and the initial experience is similar to having a pap smear examination. When you enter the room, the sperm sample will have already been prepped and you will need to confirm that it is the correct sample (identifying the donor name or donor number). The sample will be washed and ready to go in its syringe. You will be asked to lie down with your knees parted as a speculum is inserted and opened. The doctor or midwife will insert the tube, which will be connected to a syringe containing the sperm, in through your cervix. Since our cervix naturally softens and opens during the ovulation period, you should not feel much if any discomfort by this.
The sperm will slowly be injected into the tube and deposited past the cervix, into your uterus where it will begin to make the journey through your fallopian tubes to away the release of your egg. You will typically be asked to remain lying down for 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes with a pillow under you to help prop yourself up (while studies have shown that this is unnecessary for IUIs, it helps ease peace of mind).
Once you are ready to get dressed and leave, you may notice some fluid in your underwear shortly afterward – not to worry, no sperm is escaping! It is all tucked safely inside your uterus and the fluid is most likely cervical mucus that was dislodged during the process.
What to expect after the IUI
After your IUI, you may experience cramping and this is completely normal. It is best to take it easy for the remainder of the day. From this point onward, it is best to behave as though you are already pregnant: eat well, pamper yourself, and avoid extreme temperatures and strenuous activities (light exercise is good, but avoid HIIT and stop if you feel discomfort or pain, avoid raising your core body temperature and keep your heart rate under 140).
Your fertility clinic may want to monitor you further, but typically clinics only need to be notified if the procedure was a success (after being confirmed by a BETA test performed by your physician or OB/GYN). Find out what to expect during the two week wait (tww)!
SingleMomsByChoice.org is run by single moms by choice for single moms by choice, dedicated to helping educate, enlighten and empower women who are thinking about or who have decided to have a child “on their own” through donor insemination, egg or embryo donation, adoption or other assisted means.