Intrauterine insemination is the process of placing a concentrated sample of sperm into the uterus. It is done at the time of ovulation to improve the chances of pregnancy.


For IUI to be successful, at least one fallopian tube that is open and healthy is required.

IUI may help you if:

  • You have unexplained infertility
  • You are using donor sperm to conceive
  • You have had previous surgery on the cervix that makes it hard for the sperm to pass through the cervix to the uterus and tubes (for example, a trachelectomy or cone biopsy).
  • You have a partner who has low sperm count, motility (swimming), and/or morphology (shape). IUI is often recommended when the total number of swimming sperm in a semen sample is between 5 and 20 million/mL. A sperm count above 20 million/mL is considered normal.
  • You have a partner who has normal sperm parameters but who is unable to ejaculate into the vagina (for example due to dyspareunia, if either person has a disability, or if there is erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or other such condition)

What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI), or simply insemination, is the placement of a concentrated sample of sperm via a syringe into a uterus for the purpose of producing a pregnancy. For this procedure, a speculum is used to see the cervix. A soft, thin catheter is then placed through the cervix and into the uterus. The washed sperm is then introduced into the uterus through this catheter. The procedure is done in the office and takes about 5 minutes. It is not painful and does not require anesthesia.

Sperm Washing

The sperm sample is specially prepared in the andrology laboratory. The procedure is commonly known as “sperm washing”. This involves placing the sperm sample in a test tube and then a centrifuge. This results in the sperm collecting in a “pellet” at the bottom of the test tube. The seminal fluid is removed and fluid (media) is placed above the sperm. The most active sperm will then swim up into the media. The final sample consists of the most active sperm in a small volume of media.

Timing the Insemination

The insemination is done around the time of ovulation. The timing does not need to be exact in order to be successful because the sperm remain in the reproductive tract for up to a few days.

Donor Sperm

Please refer to the Donor Sperm information section on our Third Party Reproduction page.


IUI may be used on its own or along with the use of fertility medication. Common medications used include:

  • Clomiphene citrate
  • Letrozole
  • Gonadotropins

These medications are taken during the first part of the menstrual cycle. When ovulation occurs, an IUI is performed.

On the day of the IUI procedure, if a fresh sperm sample is to be used, it will be produced in one of our private collection rooms at the clinic. The sample is given to one of our laboratory personnel (an andrologist). After receiving the sample, the andrologist prepares the sperm using a wash process (this takes approximately two hours). Once ready, the sample will be placed into the uterus using a thin plastic catheter. It takes about 5 minutes to perform.

If a frozen sperm sample is to be used, it will be thawed the morning before the insemination and processed similarly to the fresh sample.