Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Artificial insemination

Before having intrauterine insemination (IUI), a couple’s fertility will need to be assessed to determine whether artificial insemination is suitable.

Before having intrauterine insemination (IUI), a couple’s fertility will need to be assessed to find out why they are having difficulty conceiving and to determine whether artificial insemination is suitable.

Read diagnosing infertility for more information about how infertility is assessed and the tests involved.

Assessing a woman's fallopian tubes

For a woman to have IUI, her fallopian tubes must be open and healthy. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the womb. Eggs are released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes each month, and this is where fertilisation takes place. If there is a problem with the fallopian tubes, it may prevent IUI from working.

Checking that the fallopian tubes are open and healthy is sometimes called a tubal patency test. The fallopian tubes can be assessed using one of two methods:

  • laparoscopy
  • hysterosalpingogram

Laparoscopy

A laparoscopy involves making a small cut in the lower abdomen. A thin, tubular microscope called a laparoscope is used to look more closely at the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. A dye may be injected through the neck of the womb into the fallopian tubes to highlight any blockages.

A laparoscopy is the preferred method of assessing the fallopian tubes. If a woman has had pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in the past, this will be an important investigation as PID can damage and scar the fallopian tubes.

Hysterosalpingogram

A hysterosalpingogram is a type of X-ray taken of the womb and fallopian tubes after a special dye has been injected. This will help detect any abnormalities or defects, such as tumours or scar tissue.

Hydrosonagram

A hydrosonogram is a procedure where water is injected through the cervix and into the uterus to allow an ultrasound scan. This will help detect abnormalities such as fibroids or cervical polyps.

The timing of IUI

To maximise the chances of success, a cycle of IUI should be carried out just after ovulation. Ovulation is when one or more eggs are released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes.

It is difficult to predict exactly when ovulation will occur, but in most women it usually happens 10 to 16 days before the start of their period. The menstrual cycle begins on the first day of a period (day one). Ovulation occurs some time after the period, which is followed by the next period 10 to 16 days later.

The exact day of ovulation can be detected by using urine ovulation kits or blood tests in the middle of the cycle.

IUI is usually carried out between day 12 and day 16 of the menstrual cycle.

Women may be given an ovulation prediction kit (OPK) to work out the date of ovulation with greater accuracy. An OPK device can detect hormones released during ovulation in urine or saliva. Alternatively, a woman may have blood or urine tests to find out when she is about to ovulate.

When an egg is mature, the woman may be given an injection of hormones to stimulate the egg’s release from the ovary.



Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Artificial insemination

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the technique used to carry out artificial insemination.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the technique used to carry out artificial insemination. 

IUI using a partner’s sperm

If a couple decides to have IUI using their own sperm, the man will be asked to provide a sperm sample at the fertility clinic, usually on the same day that IUI treatment takes place.

The man will be asked to masturbate into a specimen cup. He may also be asked not to have sexual intercourse or masturbate for two days before the sample is taken because this could affect the sperm sample’s quality.

The sperm sample will be "washed" and filtered using special equipment to remove any dead sperm and impurities. The faster-moving sperm will be kept and any slow-moving sperm will be removed. This produces a concentrated sample of healthy sperm.

An instrument called a speculum is inserted into the woman's vagina to keep the walls of the vagina open (in the same way as a smear test). A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is then placed inside the vagina and guided into the womb. This process is mostly painless, although some women may experience mild cramping, similar to period pains. The sperm sample will then be passed through the catheter and into the womb.

The process usually takes no more than 10 minutes, and the couple should be able to go home shortly after the procedure is finished.

IUI using a donor’s sperm

Choosing to use donated sperm can be a difficult decision, and a couple must have counselling before any decision is made by the clinic to proceed. 

If a couple decides to have IUI using the sperm of a donor, the same procedure is used. However, a sample of frozen sperm from a donor will be thawed out, "washed" and then inserted into the woman's womb.

All donated sperm is carefully checked for:

The fertility clinic can provide information about the physical characteristics of available donors, such as their ethnicity, physical build and hair and eye colour. This will enable a couple to try and match a potential donor’s characteristics with their own.



Share this page