Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a method of artificial insemination that has made parenting a dream come true for many families. This medical procedure is one of the ways to bypass some cases of infertility and difficulty in achieving pregnancy.
Artificial insemination is the act of putting sperm into the female reproductive system with methods other than intercourse.
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It was introduced in 1740 when John Hunter first inseminated a linen draper’s wife. In 1884, it was officially used when Dr. William Pancoast inseminated an anesthetized woman with the sperm cells of his cutest student. Since then, the medical procedure has been very much in use, and the sperm bank has grown rapidly.
There are two methods of artificial insemination.
- Intracervical insemination (ICI) where the sperm will be in the vagina
- The intrauterine insemination (IUI) where the sperm will be put directly in the uterus.
The latter is more potent, and many people are opting for it. However, it must be done by a professional (which you can get to visit your home) since it is more invasive.
Luckily, going to the hospital for insemination is not the only way to benefit from artificial insemination. Many patients don’t even like the idea.
However, people have been concerned about the at-home IUI insemination kits. Are they safe? How can I be sure they work? What are the best IUI at home kits? How do I find a sperm donor? These and more are the questions most parents ask, and I will be discussing these issues directly.
What are IUI at home kits?
IUI at home kit is the tool that allows you to do artificial insemination without visiting the clinic. But unlike the name, IUI needs to be done by a professional, so all you will need to acquire is the sperm sample.
If you have a nurse or midwife with access to a speculum, they can come to help you do this right in the heart of your living room.
They will prepare the sperm sample in a vial with a catheter.
For this procedure, you will lie with your back down and hips high. The professional will insert the speculum into your vagina to open it up and make your cervix more accessible.
The professional will then insert the catheter into your cervix and empty the content of the vial inside your uterus.
What if I don’t want to get professionals involved in my at-home insemination process?
If you do not feel too good about the interference of professionals and would like to go for something you can easily do by yourself or with the help of your spouse or partner, opt for ICI at-home kits.
These kits are mainly:
You can use a regular syringe for this procedure. You will place the mouth of the syringe inside the sperm sample and draw it in. Then you will lie with your back down and hips high and wide and empty the content of the syringe into your vagina. Stay in that position for about for the sperm to get into the needed place.
Your partner can help you with this while you lie still and enjoy the fun.
- Cervical cup
For this method, you will collect the sperm sample in a cervical cup. Close the rim of the cup and push it into your vagina until it gets to your cervix.
You can allow this cup to stay in there for up to an hour or more to ensure that the sperm gets in properly. Ensure you take it out before 12 hours to prevent an infection.
Who should use IUI at home kits?
Compared to in vitro fertilization (IVF), IUI is a less expensive and invasive method for pregnancy. It is helpful for people that have not been able to conceive naturally.
It uses the sperm of either a donor or partner and can be used in any of the following scenarios:
- Mild endometriosis: people with mild endometriosis may have issues conceiving. But since some medications can help them produce healthy eggs, IUI is usually employed as the first line of treatment for them.
- Unexplained infertility: when a person is infertile with no known cause, the doctors will use IUI alongside some ovulation medication as the first line of treatment.
- Subfertility with the male partner: If it is discovered through the analysis of your partner’s semen that his sperm count is below average, or his sperms have abnormal shapes or weak movements, IUI can be used to overcome this challenge. The procedure will only use the healthy and active sperm cells that have been separated from the rest to try conception.
- Cervical problems and issues with the cervical mucus: your cervix is at the top of your vagina and acts as the opening to your uterus. During ovulation, your cervix should produce mucus that enables easy movement of the swimmers up to your uterus and fallopian tubes. But if this cervix produces too thick mucus during your ovulation, it can slow down the activity of these sperms and make it challenging to meet your egg. If the cervix is scared, it can also prevent the sperm and your egg from meeting. A cervical biopsy causes the cervix to thicken. However, IUI overcomes this challenge because healthy sperm is deposited right in your uterus, and they can speedily swim up to your fallopian tubes.
- Erection and ejaculation problems: when a man cannot have an erection or finds it difficult to ejaculate, sperm cells can be gotten through surgical means or from a donor to help the wife get pregnant.
- Ovulatory factor infertility: doctors use IUI and ovulation medications to overcome the challenge of no ovulation or reduced number of eggs to enable them to get pregnant.
- Same-sex couples that want a baby: couples that have no male counterpart to produce sperm but want to have a baby can do so with IUI. They only need a sperm sample from a donor to fertilize the female partner.
- Semen allergy: though this is rare, some women are allergic to the proteins in their partner’s semen. When the semen gets into their vagina, it can cause burning, redness, and even swelling. Condom is usually used to make sex more bearable for this couple, but it hinders pregnancy. IUI is needed for this couple to conceive. There will be no allergies since the semen fluid will be separated from the sperm before being inserted into the uterus.
- Couples that don’t want their child to have the genetic defects of their male partner: genetically transmitted problems can be avoided by getting the sperm from a healthy donor. And since it may not be desirable to get it through intercourse, IUI is the next line of action.
IUI cannot work with the following cases
- Moderate and severe endometriosis
- Severe Fallopian tube disease
- When the two Fallopian tubes are completely blocked or removed
- Women with many pelvic infections
- When the man cannot produce sperm, in this case, the couple can get a donor.
Couples who can’t benefit from IUI can still have their dream baby through IVF. Speak to your fertility specialist concerning this.
Are IUI at home kits safe?
To be plain, having intrauterine insemination at home is not 100% safe. There are some risks of infection with this procedure since it directly involves your uterus, and it is better to have it done in a more sterile environment (the clinic).
Moreover, the speculum will be inserted into your vagina, and the security guard of your primary reproductive organ (the cervix) will be bridged. Girl, you’ve gotta be careful with that!
What is the success rate of at home IUI kits?
It is not so easy to have accurate data on the success rate of this procedure because it is dependent on many factors. Some of them include:
- The age of the woman
- Underlying infertility condition
- Whether the person is using fertility treatments
- Other related fertility concerns
The chance of getting pregnant is higher with IUI compared to ICI. But women below the age of 35 have a 10 – 20% chance of conceiving through this procedure.
Women older than 40 and those with three failed cycles of IUI have a decreased chance of conceiving with this procedure.
Your fertility specialist should discuss your chances of success with you before starting the treatment.
What is the cost of an IUI at home insemination kit?
The cost of an IUI treatment depends on your health insurance and what your doctor will charge.
However, the cost ranges from $300 – $3,000. The amount you will pay will depend on if your health insurance covers some or all of the treatment.
Some states have made laws that medical insurances should cover fertility treatment, not all insurance companies comply.
Find out if your medical insurance covers fertility treatments because most plans do not cover them at all.
Where will I find sperm samples for IUI?
You can either get sperm samples from your male partner if he can produce healthy sperm cells. If there is no healthy male partner, you can choose to get your sample for either a known donor or an anonymous donor at a sperm bank.
You can use either freshly ejaculated sperm cells or frozen ones; both work as well.
Artificial insemination uses two types of sperm samples which are unwashed and washed.
The unwashed sperm sample is one with all the seminal fluid together, just as it was ejaculated. This sample can be used for ICI because the sperm will swim its way up into the uterus.
The washed sperm sample is when the sperm cell has been separated from the other seminal fluids. This is the one that is accepted for IUI.
If the unwashed sperm sample mistakenly gets injected into the uterus, the prostaglandins in it will cause the uterus to contract.
If you are using the sperm from a known donor, send the sample to your doctor before the appointment so that he can wash and prepare for the insemination.
How Do I Get Ready for Intrauterine Insemination?
You need to be well-coordinated before the day of the insemination, with everything ready. When the time is near, you need to
- Get the sperm sample
Your partner or known donor should provide a sample used during the appointment with the doctor. Since the other constituents of the semen can cause an adverse reaction to the woman and hinder fertilization, the doctor will then wash this sperm and separate the highly active ones from the seminal fluid and low-quality sperm. This small but very active portion of sperm cells will increase your chances of getting pregnant. If your will be using a well-frozen washed sperm sample, your doctor will thaw and prepare it.
- Monitor your ovulation
Timing your ovulation is essential when planning an IUI. Track your ovulation using the home urine ovulation test to detect when your body produces a considerable amount of luteinizing hormones (LH). Your doctor can also track your ovulation by using transvaginal ultrasound to check your ovaries and eggs. To increase your chances more, your doctor can administer human chronic gonadotropin (HCG), clomiphene citrate (Clomid), or follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These medications help mature your ovaries and make you release more than one egg.
- Choose the best time
Most doctors do intrauterine insemination a day or two after tracking ovulation. However, your medical team will help you choose the best time for your procedure.
What are the risks involved in IUI at home kits?
IUI is a safe and straightforward procedure. However, this procedure is associated with the following risks:
- Infection: there is a risk of getting an infection when doing this procedure. These risks increase more when you do the IUI at home. But even in the hospital, people still have a chance of being infected due to the procedure.
- Spotting: some people may bleed slightly after the catheter has been inserted into their uterus. This spotting, however, does not affect the chances of getting pregnant.
- Multiple pregnancies: IUI increases a person’s chances of multiple pregnancies. When this procedure is done along with an ovulation medication, the chances for these increase even more. There are some risks involved in multiple pregnancies, and some of them are preterm labor and low-weight babies.
Frequently asked questions of intrauterine insemination
How long does IUI take?
The insemination itself does not last longer than a minute or two. But you will spend about 20 minutes in your doctor or midwife’s office.
Will I need pain relief medications for this procedure?
There are usually no pain relievers or other medications (except the ovulation medication, if necessary) used for this procedure.
When should I test for pregnancy after intrauterine insemination?
You should wait for two weeks after the procedure to test for pregnancy at home. If you test too early, it could result in any of the following:
- False-negative result: the test will read negative when it cannot detect an ample amount of pregnancy hormone in your body. Your body will need two weeks after fertilization to produce enough pregnancy hormones to be detected by the test.
- False-positive result: if you were treated with an ovulation medication (HCG), it is possible to have a false positive test when you are not pregnant. This is because the hormone may still be circulating in your blood, and when the test picks it up, it could mistake for pregnancy.
You should go back to the hospital for appropriate testing after running the home pregnancy test for a blood test in your doctor’s office.
If you do not conceive after the first trial with an IUI, the doctor will recommend one or two more sessions of the same treatment to maximize your chance.
IUI is usually done for three to six months before moving to another therapy.
Can at home IUI kits bypass blocked Fallopian tubes?
IUI may not work for women with blocked Fallopian tubes because the sperm may not be able to bypass the blockage to meet the egg for fertilization to occur.
If you have blocked Fallopian tubes, you can try other options like in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Can I have IUI after essure?
Essure (tubal ligation) is a surgical procedure that permanently prevents women from getting pregnant. It involves the clamping or tying of the fallopian tube to prevent eggs from entering the uterus.
Intrauterine insemination does not help people with tubal ligation because there will be no egg available for the sperm to fertilize.
IVF works better in this case since it involves the ovary’s stimulation to collect eggs and fertilize them externally before being returned to the uterus.
Intrauterine insemination is a more successful form of artificial insemination, but unlike its counterpart (Intracervical insemination), it requires a medical professional’s assistance.
This procedure has a 10 – 20% success rate, but this depends on age, cause of infertility, and other biological factors.
IUI is not for everyone, and people with moderate to severe endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes and tubal ligation cannot benefit from it.
There is no assurance that IUI will work the first time, so it is usually done two to three times before trying other methods. But if you are under the age of 35, this treatment could be perfect for you.