When it comes to fertility treatments, there are two fairly well-known procedures: intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both treatments have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, making it important to understand the difference between them and consider which is the best option for you.
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Differences between IUI and IVF
While both procedures aim to help couples achieve pregnancy, they differ in the way they are carried out and who they are best suited for.
IUI is a form of artificial insemination that involves placing washed and concentrated sperm directly into the uterus using a thin, flexible catheter. The procedure is timed to coincide with ovulation, which is determined by tracking ovulation cycles and hormone levels.
IUI is typically recommended for couples with unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis or male factor infertility such as low sperm count or poor sperm motility (movement). It is also recommended for LGBTQ+ couples and those using donor sperm. The procedure has low risks of infection and multiple pregnancy (more than one fetus).
IVF, on the other hand, is a more complex procedure that involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries and fertilizing them in the IVF laboratory with collected sperm. The resulting embryos are then transferred back into a woman’s uterus for pregnancy. IVF is recommended for couples with severe male factor infertility, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, advanced maternal age, or when other treatments such as IUI are unsuccessful.
At Envita, we work with patients to explain the differences between IUI and IVF and provide guidance on how to choose the right option for each individual’s needs.
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How to choose between IUI and IVF
Choosing IUI vs IVF can be a complex decision and requires careful consideration of several contributing factors ranging from age to personal history (more below).
Prior to recommending any course of treatment, our fertility specialist, Dr. William Freije, will evaluate the prospective parents’ medical history, lifestyle and preferences to help make an informed decision.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding on IUI vs IVF.
- The cause of infertility: If you and your partner have unexplained infertility or mild male factor infertility, IUI may be a good starting point. If you have more severe infertility issues, IVF may be the better option.
- Age: The success rates for both IUI and IVF decrease with age, but IVF is generally the more successful of the two if a woman is over the age of 35.
- Cost: The cost of fertility treatments can vary widely, and it’s important to consider the financial impact of each option. The cost of IUI is generally much less expensive than IVF as are the medication costs, with the pre-screening costs about the same for both procedures. But it may require multiple IUI cycles to achieve pregnancy (as can IVF). IVF may be more expensive upfront, but it may also have a higher success rate and require fewer cycles. Be sure to factor in any financing or discounts that a clinic may provide.
- Emotional and physical demands: IVF is a more invasive, time consuming and emotionally challenging procedure than IUI. Be sure to consider the potential stress and emotional impact of each treatment option.
- Multiple-birth pregnancy risk: Both treatments can increase the risk of multiple pregnancy such as twins, which can increase the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The risk is particularly higher if multiple embryos are transferred in an IVF cycle. The risk of a multiple pregnancy is no greater than in a natural pregnancy if IUI without fertility medications is used. Similarly, elective single embryo transfer (eSET) in IVF significantly reduces the risk of multiple pregnancies.
Let us be your guide to fertility treatment
Ultimately, the decision to pursue IUI vs IVF will depend on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. It’s important to have a thorough discussion with our fertility specialist about the benefits and risks of each treatment, as well as the emotional and financial considerations. Dr. Freije will be able to provide guidance and support throughout the process.