Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a simple procedure that puts sperm directly inside your uterus, which helps healthy sperm get closer to your egg.

How does IUI work?

IUI stands for in intrauterine insemination. It’s also sometimes called donor insemination, alternative insemination, or artificial insemination. IUI works by putting sperm cells directly into your uterus around the time you’re ovulating, helping the sperm get closer to your egg. This cuts down on the time and distance sperm has to travel, making it easier to fertilize your egg.

Before having the insemination procedure, you may take fertility medicines that stimulate ovulation. Semen is collected from your partner or a donor. It goes through a process called “sperm washing” that collects a concentrated amount of healthy sperm from the semen.

Then your doctor puts the sperm right into your uterus. Pregnancy happens if sperm fertilizes your egg, and the fertilized egg implants in the lining of your uterus.

IUI is a simple and low-tech procedure, and it can be less expensive than other types of fertility treatments. It increases your chances of pregnancy, but everyone’s body is different, so there’s no guarantee that IUI will work.

What can I expect during IUI?

Before IUI, you may take fertility medicines that help make your eggs mature and ready to be fertilized. Your doctor will do the insemination procedure during ovulation (when your ovaries release an egg). Sometimes you’ll be given hormones that trigger ovulation.  They’ll figure out exactly when you’re ovulating and ready for the procedure to maximize your chances of getting pregnant.

Your partner or donor collects a semen sample at home or in the doctor’s office. The sperm are prepared for insemination through a process called “sperm washing” that pulls out a concentrated amount of healthy sperm. Sperm washing also helps get rid of chemicals in the semen that can cause reactions in your uterus and make it harder to get pregnant. If you’re using donor sperm from a sperm bank, the sperm bank generally sends the doctor's office sperm that’s already “washed” and ready for IUI.

During the IUI procedure, the doctor slides a thin, flexible tube through your cervix into your uterus. They use a small syringe to insert the sperm through the tube directly into your uterus. Pregnancy happens if sperm fertilizes an egg, and the fertilized egg implants in the lining of your uterus.  

The insemination procedure is done at your doctor’s office or at a fertility clinic, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes. It’s pretty quick, and you don’t need anesthesia. IUI is usually not painful, but some people have mild cramping.

How much does IUI cost?

The cost of IUI varies depending on what type of insurance coverage you have and how much your doctor’s fees are. IUI is usually less expensive than other fertility treatments, like IVF.  In general, it costs about $300-$1,000 without insurance.

A few states have laws that say health insurance companies must cover some or all of the costs of infertility treatment if you meet certain requirements. But many insurance plans don’t offer any fertility treatment coverage at all.

You can get more information about insurance coverage of IVF and other fertility treatments at The National Infertility Association