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How does intrauterine insemination work?

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Quick Answer

During an intrauterine insemination, a patient lies on an exam table with her legs in stirrups, and a doctor uses a speculum to slightly widen the vaginal opening, Mayo Clinic states. The doctor threads a catheter with an attached vial through the vaginal cavity, releasing the sperm into the uterus.

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Full Answer

Doctors perform an intrauterine insemination, or IUI, during a woman’s ovulation period, according to the National Infertility Association. Prior to the IUI, the facility handling the sperm sample conducts a “washing” procedure to separate the sperm from ejaculate, leaving a small, but heavily concentrated sample. Sperm washing also removes toxins that could harm the uterus.

Women are often required to monitor their ovulation cycles for several days leading up to the procedure, and home kits help them detect a significant increase in luteinizing hormones in the body, Mayo Clinic states. Doctors may also use a transvaginal ultrasound to monitor the ovaries, and they aim to complete the IUI within one or two days of the start of ovulation. An IUI is typically painless, and the entire doctor’s visit typically lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.

IUI treatment offers an alternative method of conception for people with unexplained fertility issues or complications such as low sperm count, cervical scar tissue and poor sperm mobility, the American Pregnancy Association explains. The procedure helps improve the success of sperm traveling toward the fallopian tubes, overcoming some of the obstacles that prevent fertilization.

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