Artificial insemination, also known as intrauterine insemination (IUI), is the most commonly used form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) but its success rate is somewhat disappointing. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has a higher rate of success but is used less often. Medical researchers in Spain have just published the findings of a study that demonstrates a higher IUI success rate when there are more uterine contractions per minute during the procedure and when the sperm comes from a donor rather than a partner. A live birth is the measure of success for any form of ART.

To accomplish IUI, a catheter is placed through a woman’s cervical canal. Once in place, sperm is transported through the catheter and released into the uterus. Artificial insemination is a relatively simple procedure; its simplicity makes it more affordable and more available for more couples seeking fertility treatment.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a much more complex method of ART, involving a lengthy preparation period. A woman undergoes weeks of hormone treatments before IVF is attempted. The procedure requires extraction of the egg and manipulation of it and sperm in a highly specialized medical laboratory. The time involved, the monitoring of hormone levels, the surgery, laboratory manipulation, and state-of-the-art medical equipment drives up the cost of IVF, making it financially unfeasible for many couples.  Many couples simply do not have access to IVF therapies because the operation of such a highly complex lab is so cost prohibitive they aren’t widely located in many regions of the world.

Dr. Manuel Fernández-Sánchez and his research team at Spain’s Valencia Infertility Institute wanted to find a way to make IUI more successful. Their quest began with the study of 610 women who experienced IUI during a collective total of 979 cycles. During each of these cycles, the uterine contraction rate was recorded. The researchers discovered that, in addition to maternal age, these factors did increase the rate of success:

  • The more ovarian follicles that rupture during ovulation, the greater the success rate.
  • Success is more likely when insemination is done on the same day the ovarian follicles rupture.
  • The more times a minute the uterus contracts during insemination, the greater the chance for pregnancy and live birth.
  • Sperm from a donor proved successful 25% of the time; sperm from a partner had only a 15% to 20% rate of success.

“If we manage to improve artificial insemination success rates using this and other studies, we could be contributing to an important advance” in IUI techniques, said Fernández-Sánchez. The findings of his study were published online on July 17, 2014, at the website of the medical journal, Fertility and Sterility.


  1. Fernández-Sánchez, Manuel, et al. “Influence of follicle rupture and uterine contractions on intrauterine insemination outcome: a new predictive model (abstract).” Fertility and Sterility. Elsevier Inc. 17 Jul. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.
  2. Smith, Deborah. “Intrauterine Insemination: Will it Help Me Conceive?” RESOLVE. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.