Infertile couples may have difficulty conceiving because of factors that make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. During intrauterine insemination (IUI), the partner's sperm is placed directly into the uterus near the time of ovulation.
This procedure is often performed in the case of:
- Use of donor sperm
- A low sperm count
- Abnormalities of ejaculation (retrograde ejaculation, impotence, spinal cord injury)
- A condition of the cervix preventing sperm from entering the uterus
Before undergoing insemination, a semen analysis is performed to determine whether there is sufficient sperm. Ovulation is timed very carefully using monitoring tests or medication. On the day of ovulation, sperm from the male partner or donor sperm is prepared in the andrology laboratory. The sperm must be separated from the semen because the seminal fluid can irritate the uterus and cause severe cramping and pain. The sperm is then introduced into the uterine cavity through a very thin catheter. This procedure facilitates sperm arrival in the fallopian tube on time. IUI does not appear to help if the sperm are markedly abnormal or the count is very low.
There is minimal risk associated with intrauterine insemination; the risks may include cramping, bleeding, and infection.