IUI versus IVF: What are the differences in these common treatment procedures?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are two commonly used methods of fertility treatment which increase a couple’s chance of becoming pregnant. But which one is right for you? The IUI versus IVF dilemma is one commonly faced by many couples having difficulties conceiving.
When patients first seek help to conceive, the array of fertility treatment options available can seem overwhelming. With no one-size-fits-all solution to infertility treatment, the path you eventually take will be unique to your specific case.
Understanding the differences between IUI versus IVF will give you a place to begin your conversations with one of our fertility experts. Here’s what you need to know.
Couples seeking fertility treatment often prefer to start with IUI which is seen as a less invasive and less intrusive procedure than IVF. Simply put, IUI involves the insertion of prepared sperm directly into the woman’s uterus close to the time of ovulation and during the fertile window. This is typically done in combination with ovulation induction drugs, but can also accompany a natural cycle using no drugs.
IVF, on the other hand, is a process which consists of several stages and requires more than one procedure. First the ovaries are stimulated using a series of fertility medications, then the patient undergoes egg retrieval in a day procedure under a mild anesthetic. After the embryos have been created and incubated in the lab over several days, they are placed directly into the woman’s uterus in the embryo transfer procedure. Additionally, an IVF cycle requires the expertise of an embryologist as well as high-technology laboratory equipment to deal with the cultivation of your embryos. If embryo genetic testing is required or desired, this increases the complexity of the procedure.
A common consideration to keep in mind for the IUI versus IVF decision is that success depends largely on variables such as female age, the reason for infertility, and the fertility drugs used. With IUI, women under 35 often have a 10 to 15 percent chance of getting pregnant with just one cycle.
With an IVF cycle using a woman’s own eggs, the average national success rates range from 45 percent to 50 percent or more for patients under 35 years old. These success rates can be pushed even higher, typically in the 60 to 70 percent range, when the embryos are genetically tested and selected before transfer.
Age plays a huge role in the success of IUI and IVF. Success rates for both procedures drop precipitously for women over 40 using their own eggs.
Time and Money
The factors of time and money cut both ways when comparing IUI versus IVF. A single round of IUI is a much shorter process than a single IVF cycle, so if your first cycle is successful, it could be the quickest route to bringing home a baby. However, a couple may have to undergo three or four IUI cycles to achieve the same success rate that may have been achieved in a single cycle of IVF.
On the cost front, an IUI is typically about a tenth of the cost of a round of IVF, a serious consideration for many patients, especially those whose insurance does not cover infertility treatment. But the costs can add up if multiple IUI cycles are needed. Depending on your diagnosis and your chances of conceiving through IUI, it may be more cost-effective to go directly to an IVF cycle rather than dealing with multiple failed IUI cycles.
Unfortunately, time also ages a woman’s eggs and many patients find themselves in the dilemma of time versus money. Do we spend more time and less money going the IUI route, or do we spend less time and more money going the IVF route? Because of the gap in success rates between the two treatment options, some patients in their late 30s to early 40s may get pregnant faster by going directly to IVF rather than waiting until they have had several failed IUI cycles.
Risk of Multiples
Multiples introduces complications for both the mother and the babies. Many women undergoing IUI are given hormones or medication in order to induce ovulation. This can result in the release of more than one egg in a given cycle and therefore increases a couple’s chances of having twins or multiples. A good clinic will carefully monitor your follicles to make sure that only a safe number are mature before the IUI, but they cannot entirely eliminate the risk.
On the other hand, recent advances in IVF, most notably genetic screening of embryos, mean that most modern fertility clinics now transfer only one embryo per IVF cycle. In special circumstances, the couple and their doctor may decide to transfer two embryos into the uterus. If excess embryos result from an IVF cycle, these are frozen to be available for future treatment.
Whether you ultimately choose IUI or IVF, the first step is finding a Louisiana fertility clinic that prioritizes your individual needs. Quality information helps you make a good decision, which is why it is so important to start with an in-depth medical investigation and diagnosis. Understanding exactly which issues may be contributing to your infertility helps you and your Fertility Answers doctor create a treatment plan with the greatest chance of success. Contact us to start answering your questions today.