Taking your first steps on the fertility treatment fairway? It’s likely artificial insemination could be your first port of treatment call. But what does it involve (and will you need to buy a turkey baster)? We bust some myths about one of the UK’s most popular fertility treatments
Myth: You use a kitchen instrument to do it
Hell, no! Ok let’s get this one out of the way first. Artificial insemination is a treatment for infertility that involves directly inserting sperm into a woman’s womb.
In intrauterine insemination (IUI), a man provides a sample of sperm, which is then "washed" and filtered to make sure that only the highest-quality motile sperm are used. The concentrated sperm is passed directly into the woman’s womb through a thin tube called a catheter.
Not a turkey baster in sight! Phew!
Myth: If you’ve been struggling to conceive for a year you’ll automatically be offered IUI as a next step
Once upon a time this may have been true but recent guidelines have changed who is accepted for IUI on the NHS. Previously, IUI treatment on the NHS was offered if a man had mild fertility problems, a woman had mild endometriosis or a couple had explained infertility, but new guidelines released in 2013 state that IUI should no longer be offered in these circumstances.
Instead, the recommendations are to keep trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for a total of two years, after which you may be offered IVF. Better get practicising those trying-to-conceive sex positions then…
Keep trying to conceive through unprotected sex for two years. After this, you may be offered IVF
Myth: It doesn’t work
While it’s true to say artificial insemination doesn’t have as high a success rate as IVF or ICSI, according to the most recent statistics from the HFEA, IUI has a success rate of around 15% for each cycle of treatment. So it does work for a lot of people!
Myth: It’s cheaper than IVF
Costs for private IUI vary from £500 to £1,000 for each cycle of treatment, which is considerably less than the cost of IVF. But, if you have to have several cycles of IUI before success, this can easily add up to the same or even more than one round of IVF or ICSI, which offer slightly better success rates.
Myth: Anyone can have IUI on the NHS
At the moment the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that up to six cycles of IUI treatment on the NHS may be offered if: you are unable (or would find it very difficult) to have vaginal intercourse, for example because of a physical disability; you have a condition (such as a viral infection that can be sexually transmitted) that means you need specific help to conceive; or you are in a same-sex relationship.
Myth: You need to have a general anaesthetic
Nope! Artificial insemination is a quick and pain-free procedure performed in your fertility clinic. You won’t need a general or local anaesthetic and you can go home straight afterwards.
Myth: You have to take lots of fertility drugs
Not true either. In fact, it isn’t recommended to use fertility medication in combination with IUI. This is because there are associated risks such as a higher chance of multiple pregnancy.