A simple definition of intrauterine insemination is the introduction of semen into a woman’s uterus via the vagina or cervix by any means other than sexual intercourse. The best-known assisted production technique, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), was invented a mere 40 years ago – and people were using IUI long before that. Intrauterine insemination, also known as artificial insemination, was used in humans as long ago as the 18th century, but techniques and refinements to make it more successful have steadily developed since those early days.
In this IVI blog article, we take a look at the intrauterine insemination history timeline and then fast forward to how the technique is applied today in order to help people to achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Along the way, we will set out who IUI is most suitable for and exactly how the IUI timeline works for individuals undergoing treatment.
Intrauterine insemination history timeline
The history of IUI in animals goes back a very long way, to the 14th century in fact, when it is believed that it was used by breeders of Arab stallions. The technique was then developed during the 18th and 19th centuries and has become widely used in farming and livestock breeding, as well as in rare animal conservation programmes.
The first recorded instance of the use of artificial insemination in humans was in the late 18th century, when Scottish surgeon John Hunter successfully impregnated a woman with her husband’s semen. Back then, the freezing of sperm in sperm banks, ovarian stimulation and sperm selection were unheard of and the technique remained at its most basic and simple. Since those early days, artificial semination has been steadily refined and has become one of the most straightforward and least invasive of all the assisted reproduction techniques currently available.
What is the intrauterine insemination timeline and process?
Not only is IUI the least invasive of assisted reproduction techniques, but the intrauterine insemination timeline is also the most straightforward. It mimics the woman’s natural cycle, and if necessary, it should be possible to repeat the full treatment each month until conception occurs. Our IVI video on artificial insemination takes you through the steps of the procedure.
Who is IUI suitable for?
IUI using semen from the male partner could be the recommended treatment in cases of unexplained infertility, where the woman has ovulation problems or an abnormality of the cervix, or where the man has slight or moderate semen defects in relation to concentration or motility. IUI using donor semen is the most likely route for single women or lesbian couples, or couples where the man has very poor quality or a complete absence of semen, or where he carries a genetic disease which is undetectable in an embryo.
Ovarian stimulation: the start of the intrauterine insemination timeline
The first phase consists of administering medication to stimulate the ovaries to produceone or two ova, to increase the chances of conception. This phase normally lasts between 10 and 12 days. Ultrasound scans check the development of the follicles and when they are adequate in size and number, a hormonal injection triggers the maturation of the oocytes and ovulation. Insemination is scheduled for 36 hours later.
Just in time: semen preparation
In the meantime, an andrology team is on hand to prepare the semen which needs to be supplied just two hours before insemination takes place. This consists of the selection of those spermatozoa which have the best motility and morphology, concentrating and activating them. This is achieved through a technique known as semen capacitation in which unviable, slow or immobile spermatozoa are eliminated, thus optimising the semen which will be used for insemination.
The final stage is very brief. A speculum is placed in the vagina in a process that is no more uncomfortable than a smear test. Then, a catheter containing the selected sperm is inserted into the uterus and the sperm is injected. The whole process takes five minutes, plus the 10 minutes that you lie down afterwards. And that’s it! Following the treatment, there is the two-week wait to find out whether or not conception has taken place and a pregnancy is under way. It’s the same two weeks as for any assisted reproduction treatment, such as IVF. You may like to take a look at our article with tips for surviving the two-week wait.
Finding out more from IVI
Intrauterine insemination is just one of the well-established treatments available to people who have problems with fertility. If you would like to find out more about this or other treatment options, do get in touch with us at IVI. You can call on +34 960 451 185 from outside the UK, or 0800 52 00 161 in the UK. Alternatively, use our confidential online contact form and an advisor will be happy to get back to you.