You may have heard of IUI, as a possible alternative to the more well-known and talked about IVF treatment. But what is it, what does it involve and how can it help you to start a family of your own?

In this and our other blogs, we can provide you with information and the answers to some of the questions that you may have during your fertility journey.

What is IUI?

IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a commonly used fertility treatment, offered to couples or individuals who are struggling to conceive. Candidates for IUI include heterosexual couples who have failed to conceive naturally (through sexual intercourse), heterosexual individuals without a partner, or members of the LGBT+ community. IUI is one of several Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) available to selected patients via the NHS and also accessible privately, from clinics across the world.

What is involved with IUI?

With IUI, sperm is inserted directly into the womb, via a thin tube. As with trying to conceive through sexual intercourse, the timing is really important, to allow the sperm to fertilise the egg. This timing will be pinpointed by your fertility specialist, using an ultrasound scan to monitor your ovulation.
You can use sperm from your partner, or, if required, donor sperm can be used. If a couple or individual are using their own sperm, the man will need to provide a sperm sample on the day of the IUI procedure. The sample will then be washed in the lab and the healthiest sperm selected. Donor sperm needs to be frozen in advance, to allow any potential infections or inherited diseases to be detected.

IUI and fertility drugs

Does IUI involve any medication?

It is possible to have IUI treatment without the use of fertility drugs. This is called an unstimulated cycle. Alternatively, you may decide to go down the route of a stimulated IUI cycle. Your fertility specialist will be able to discuss both options with you, prior to treatment.
The IUI procedure is generally low-risk, taking about 10 minutes and with few side-effects.

How will I know if IUI is right for me?  

Before undergoing IUI treatment, your GP and/or fertility specialist, will need to ascertain if it’s the best course of treatment for you. This will depend on factors such as your family medical history, your own medical history and the results of any fertility tests and assessments that you undergo.
If the woman has no identified barriers to conception, then IUI may be considered to be the best option, as it is less complex, less invasive and less expensive than IVF treatment.

Will I qualify for NHS funding for IUI?

In the UK, qualification for NHS funding depends very much on your postcode. In England, each local NHS trust issues their own rules around funding, in addition to the guidelines issues by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Heterosexual couples will generally need to have tried to conceive unsuccessfully for at least 6 months (depending on the age of the female partner) before being considered for NHS treatment for IUI. Single people and same sex couples will often need to prove their infertility by self-funding IUI treatments, before any NHS funded treatments will be considered.

If I don’t qualify for NHS funding, how can I find a suitable clinic for IUI?

It’s important to do your research carefully, when choosing the clinic for your treatment. Firstly, you need to take into consideration your individual diagnosis and look around to see what is available to meet your needs.

There are many factors to take into consideration, including cost, location, treatment available, quality of care, reputation, success rates (look for results for others of a similar age with similar fertility issues to make fair comparisons), experience, quality control measures, insurance, accountability and the regulations in place.
Clinics in the UK are regulated by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority). This organisation provides information and guidance about UK clinics and treatment.

Here at the IVF Network, we provide a wide range of information around fertility and conception, through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help you to be more informed on your own, personal fertility journey.