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An IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a fertility treatment for patients who have difficulty becoming pregnant. The procedure for IUI typically begins with fertility drugs and ultrasounds to track ovulation. A male partner provides a sperm sample, or the couple may choose to use donated sperm. The sperm sample is then processed in a laboratory and injected into the woman's uterus to encourage pregnancy. An IUI is low-risk and considered safe; however, it does increase the possibility of multiple pregnancies, such as twins or triplets.
Often, a woman will take fertility drugs to begin the procedure for IUI. These drugs, taken at the beginning of a menstrual cycle, stimulate the ovaries to increase the chances of pregnancy. Timing the IUI procedure is essential to ensure the sperm will be able to fertilize the egg. Ovulation will be monitored through ultrasound imaging tests or with an at-home ovulation detection kit to determine the best time to inject the sperm. Less commonly, the doctor may induce ovulation with medications.
The next step in a procedure for IUI is to process the sperm. If donor sperm is to be used, it will be thawed. Otherwise, the male partner will provide the sperm sample. It will be sent to a laboratory, where it will undergo a process that removes the seminal fluid. Sperm that is not as likely to result in a pregnancy will be separated from the healthy sperm.
When the concentrated sperm sample is ready, the doctor will perform the procedure for IUI. This procedure is simple and should not be painful; however, some women may experience some discomfort. The patient can expect the same preparation that is used for a gynecological examination. First, she will be asked to lie on an exam table with her feet in stirrups. A speculum is used to hold her vagina open.
The doctor will then insert a thin catheter, which contains the sperm sample, into the uterus. Once the sperm sample is released, the doctor can remove the instruments. This simple IUI procedure typically takes about 20 minutes. Patients require no recovery time and they may resume normal activities immediately. A sanitary napkin should be used for the rest of the day, as patients may notice temporary light spotting.
After the procedure for IUI is complete, the patient may monitor herself for signs of pregnancy. It is recommended that an at-home pregnancy test kit be used no sooner than two weeks following the fertility treatment. If the test is positive, patients may return to their doctor's office for a more accurate pregnancy test. This fertility treatment may be repeated several times if it is not successful, or the patient may decide to try other methods, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).