Dr. Chew Answers: What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)?

IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is an assisted reproduction technique. It is performed by opening the vagina with a speculum and inserting a soft, thin flexible tube through the neck of the womb (cervix) and injecting processed semen directly into the cavity of the womb. The whole process is fairly painless and takes a few minutes to perform. After the semen is injected, the patient rests for about 20-30 minutes.

The procedure

The semen sample has to be collected beforehand. Usually the sample is collected through ejaculation into a sterile collection cup, but it can also be obtained using a non-spermicidal condom. The sample is then sent to the laboratory for processing using a technique to separate the motile sperm from a non-motile sperm. The process usually takes an hour to complete.

The patient is unusually treated with fertility drug or injection to stimulate the ovary. The egg is then tracked for its development by vaginal ultrasound examination. When it reaches an optimal size, another drug called HCG is injected for its release. IUI is then performed within 24 and 48 hours. Some doctors prefer to time the IUI to the natural ovulation period.

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Intrauterine Insemination is not suitable for patients with:

  • Blockage of tube
  • Very poor egg quantity and quality
  • Premature menopause
  • Very poor sperm quality and quantity


It is commonly used for infertility associated with:

  • Mild degree of blood cyst (endometriosis)
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Inability to ovulate (anovulation)
  • Very mild degree of low sperm count


Success rates

Success rates for pregnancy vary between 15-20 percent per cycle depending on the age of the woman, type of ovarian stimulation used (if any), duration of infertility, cause of infertility, number and quality of motile sperm in the processed semen, and other factors.

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There is no hard and fast rule as to how many IUI one must try. Usually, one may try 3 IUIs on fertility drugs, before moving on to injectables. If one does not get pregnant with 3 good cycles on injectables, other options may be considered.

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