What is IUI?
IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. This is when sperm is inserted into your uterus, through your cervix, using a very small catheter.
Where does the sperm come from?
Sperm can come from someone in your relationship who makes it, from a “Known Donor” (i.e. friend or family member), or an anonymous donor (found through a sperm bank). While it is up to you to obtain the sperm, we will walk you through every step of the process.
If you decide to use fresh or frozen sperm from someone you know, we can guide you through all the considerations and logistical steps to prepare the sperm for IUI.
If you decide to use frozen sperm from an anonymous donor, we can answer any questions you have to help you choose and get in contact with the cryobank you plan to use. Occasionally this includes paperwork that needs to be signed by your provider - Frida Care is happy to complete this for you. At the time of ovulation, you will contact your cryobank to either pick up or have mailed to you a nitrogen tank containing the vials of frozen sperm. The nitrogen tank will stay frozen for 5-7 days depending on which cryobank you use.
After you decide whether you will be using a known or anonymous donor, it will be up to you to obtain the sperm. If you decide on a known donor, we can walk you through all of the possible considerations for this option. If you decide on an anonymous donor, you will be in touch with cryobanks to select the right donor for you. In order to obtain the sperm from a cryobank, there are some authorization forms to fill out which I will be happy to sign as your provider. Once we determine the window in which you will likely ovulate, you will request a nitrogen tank for 5-7 days (length of tank is cryobank dependant) in which your vials of frozen sperm will be stored until your IUIs that cycle. The nitrogen tank can be delivered to your home for an extra fee, or you can pick it up yourself.
Wait, back up. How small is this catheter-thing? How does it get to my uterus??
Great question. The catheter we use is a one-time use, 2mm (yes that’s 2 milimeters—like a piece of uncooked angel hair pasta!) diameter sterile catheter. We draw up the sperm into the catheter, and then it passes through your cervix and into your uterus.
How long does this take?
The insemination visit typically takes about 30 minutes total, although there are things for you to prepare ahead of time, and a resting period after. Here’s a breakdown:
When we arrive, we will chat, check in with you and your partner, and confirm your primary fertile signs and OPK status (we will do this extensively before scheduling this visit, but triple checking never hurts)
While chatting, we will take one vial of sperm out of the nitrogen tank (using protective gloves!) and warm it for about 5 minutes. Once it is warm enough to hold with bare hands, you or your partner are welcome to take it and warm it for another 5 minutes while infusing your energy into it before the insemination!
The insertion procedure takes less than 5 minutes in total and will take place either on your bed or couch —or the most comfortable spot in your home. You will need to elevate your hips on several pillows, and remove your bottoms. You are welcome to place a sheet over your lower half if this feels more comfortable to you.
We will set up our materials, draw the sperm into the catheter, and when you’re ready we will talk you through the entire procedure. We will place the speculum and visualize your cervix. This is very similar to getting a pap exam, only you’re in your own clothes, in your own bed, and there’s no rush.
Once we visualize your cervix, we will pass the catheter through your cervix and into your uterus. You may feel a bit of pressure or discomfort, though it’s possible not to feel it at all. Once the catheter is in the right position, we will remove the speculum and depress the catheter very slowly until all of the sperm is in. Then we will slowly remove the catheter.
And done! That’s all there is to it! The last thing for you to do is to rest for approximately 1 hour with your hips still elevated.
OK, that doesn’t sound so bad! And this actually works?
Yes! However, not always the first time. It takes an average of 4 cycles to become pregnant via IUI for healthy, fertile bodies, though the likelihood increases if you choose more than 1 insemination per cycle. The success rate of conception via sexual intercourse is 20% and the success rate for conception via well-timed IUI is approximately 14%. IUI is actually twice as successful as intravaginal insemination (7%) with frozen sperm, which is why we recommend this procedure so highly.