In the United States, an estimated 6.7 million women of childbearing years are unable to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the reasons for infertility vary, both male and female factors may be contributors. Artificial insemination (also known as intrauterine insemination, or IUI) is one of the most popular infertility interventions, with tens of thousands of these procedures performed each year. Before deciding to undergo IUI, individuals should understand the process to ensure they make an informed choice.
The Artificial Insemination Process
Essentially, IUI bypasses the need to have sexual intercourse for sperm to reach a mature egg. Rather, sperm are placed directly into a woman’s uterus to maximize the probability of reproductive success. Although exact protocols vary by clinic, most follow the same general procedure:
- The woman may receive special medications to increase the number of mature eggs. This typically includes injections of follicle stimulating hormone, which tells the ovaries to produce more eggs than usual. Hyperstimulation of the ovaries ensures that enough mature eggs are present to become fertilized.
- The man produces a semen specimen at home or in fertility clinics in New York City. Before producing the semen sample, the man should refrain from ejaculating for 2 to 5 days. This ensures that the volume and quality of sperm are optimal for fertilizing the egg. Alternatively, donor sperm may be used if preferred or medically necessary (i.e., if the male partner’s sperm is very low quality).
- The semen sample is taken to a laboratory for special processing. For healthy men, semen contains 1 to 3% sperm, with the remainder consisting of fluid containing vitamins, minerals, and proteins that nourish the sperm cells. In the laboratory, semen undergoes a “washing” procedure in which sperm are separated from the other components. Sperm cells are concentrated in a small volume, with low quality sperm separated from the higher quality sperm cells. This procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes and ensures that the best quality sperm are used, increasing odds of successful pregnancy.
- A New York fertility clinic physician places a speculum in the vagina to gently clean the cervical area, preparing the reproductive tract for insemination.
- A small, sterile, flexible catheter is inserted into the uterine cavity. The highly motile sperm yielded from the “washing” procedure are placed into the cervix or uterine cavity. This allows the sperm to have the greatest likelihood of successfully fertilizing the woman's mature eggs.
When properly performed by Neway Fertility clinic NYC doctors, the artificial insemination procedure is reminiscent of a regular Pap smear. This outpatient procedure involves little discomfort and is widely employed to treat male and female infertility.