Artificial insemination - How it is performed 

How artificial insemination is performed 

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the technique used to carry out artificial insemination. 

IUI using a partner’s sperm

If a couple decides to have IUI using their own sperm, the man will be asked to provide a sperm sample at the fertility clinic, usually on the same day that IUI treatment takes place.

The man will be asked to masturbate into a specimen cup. He may also be asked not to have sexual intercourse or masturbate for two days before the sample is taken because this could affect the sperm sample’s quality.

The sperm sample will be "washed" and filtered using special equipment to remove any dead sperm and impurities. The faster-moving sperm will be kept and any slow-moving sperm will be removed. This produces a concentrated sample of healthy sperm.

An instrument called a speculum is inserted into the woman's vagina to keep the walls of the vagina open (in the same way as a smear test). A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is then placed inside the vagina and guided into the womb. This process is mostly painless, although some women may experience mild cramping, similar to period pains. The sperm sample will then be passed through the catheter and into the womb.

The process usually takes no more than 10 minutes, and the couple should be able to go home shortly after the procedure is finished.

IUI using a donor’s sperm

Choosing to use donated sperm can be a difficult decision, and a couple must have counselling before any decision is made by the clinic to proceed. 

If a couple decides to have IUI using the sperm of a donor, the same procedure is used. However, a sample of frozen sperm from a donor will be thawed out, "washed" and then inserted into the woman's womb.

All donated sperm is carefully checked for:

The fertility clinic can provide information about the physical characteristics of available donors, such as their ethnicity, physical build and hair and eye colour. This will enable a couple to try and match a potential donor’s characteristics with their own.


Page last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015

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