Intrauterine insemination (IUI) can increase their likelihood of becoming pregnant. The procedure involves collecting sperm and inserting it into the uterus.

The success rate of IUI depends on the age of both partners, their fertility, and whether or not they use fertility drugs. If a couple undergoes the procedure every month, the success rate may be up to 20% per cycle.

However, the risks of IUI include infections and multiple births.

Read on to learn how IUI works, how much it costs, its risks, and more.

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To understand how IUI works, it helps to know what happens during a typical conception.

Following ejaculation, sperm moves up the vagina and into the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus. After navigating through the cervix, the sperm move into the uterine cavity and then the fallopian tubes. These are a pair of tubes that capture the egg after it releases from the ovary.

If sperm are in the fallopian tube when the egg arrives, the egg and sperm can meet. The egg can undergo fertilization and become an embryo. The embryo then travels back through the fallopian tube and into the uterus, where it implants to become a pregnancy.

The cervix is a natural barrier to sperm movement. This means that after ejaculation, only a small percentage of sperm can move past the cervix and into the uterus.

An IUI procedure sidesteps this issue by inserting the sperm past the cervix and into the uterus. This shortens the distance the sperm travels to reach the fallopian tubes, increasing the likelihood that one sperm will meet and fertilize the egg.

The IUI procedure consists of the following steps:

  1. Sperm collection: This can happen in several ways, such as through:
    • masturbating into a sterile container
    • retrieving into a special condom during sex
    • extracting from a urine sample in a lab
    • collecting while undergoing vibratory stimulation
  2. Sperm sample washing: This involves the removal of the seminal fluid from the sample because it can cause severe cramping in the female. This part can take 1–2 hours.
  3. Sperm insertion: The individual will lie down as a healthcare professional inserts a thin, flexible catheter through the cervix into the uterus. They then slowly inject the sperm sample. This takes a few minutes.

Although IUI can help people fall pregnant, it can be relatively expensive. This limits access, as insurance does not always cover the procedure. A 2018 study reports that for most people, insurance companies do not cover infertility treatments as they do for other medical conditions.

However, it is important to note that IUI is a minimally invasive strategy that is typically less expensive than other assistive fertility methods, specifically in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Just 15 states have laws that mandate that insurance companies cover a portion of infertility costs. This means in many cases, individuals have to pay out of pocket. Cycles generally range from one to several thousand dollars.

The success of an IUI procedure depends upon several factors, including:

  • the reason for infertility
  • the age of both partners
  • the use of fertility drugs

If a couple undergoes the procedure every month, the success rate may be as high as 20% per cycle. However, older research from 2010 that evaluated 366 people found that IUI resulted in a pregnancy rate of around 8.7% and a live birth rate of around 5.8%.

Because the success rates vary greatly from person to person, individuals considering IUI can discuss the likelihood of pregnancy with a healthcare professional.

If a female takes fertility medications while undergoing IUI, the likelihood of becoming pregnant with twins, triplets, or multiple births is higher. Twins or higher-order multiple pregnancies — pregnancies involving three or more fetuses —carry significantly higher risks to the pregnant individual and their fetuses, including premature birth.

Additionally, the risks of IUI involve a small chance of infection.

IUI is less effective in people with severe sperm abnormalities or who produce few sperm. It also does not help individuals with:

  • moderate to severe endometriosis
  • fallopian tube blockage or damage
  • uterine abnormalities

Following an IUI procedure, an individual should contact a doctor if they experience severe abdominal pain or other side effects.

Two weeks after an IUI, a person may wish to take a home pregnancy test. However, a blood test is a more accurate means of determining if fertilization has occurred, so someone should ask their doctor if they recommend this.

If the IUI does not lead to a pregnancy, a doctor can advise whether to repeat the procedure or try a different type of fertility treatment, such as IVF.

Learn more about IVF.

IUI increases the likelihood of fertilization because it results in more sperm reaching the area where one can meet an egg and unite. Even though the cost is less than the cost of IVF, it can still be a barrier for some as it often does not have insurance coverage.

The success rate depends on factors such as the condition underlying infertility. A person should be aware that taking fertility medications while undergoing IUI can increase the risk of multiple births.