IUI vs. IVF Which to Do and When to Pivot?

When you’re dealing with a diagnosis of infertility, there are different treatment options available. Of course, your treatment depends on your specific needs, but two of the more common treatments are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Most couples are familiar with both terms but may not fully understand what’s involved in each treatment and the differences.  

Understanding Your Options 

It’s essential to thoroughly examine and understand your treatment options, rates of success, and details as they relate to your situation. Of course, your fertility team helps you make an educated choice and guides you toward the type of treatment that best suits your needs, but it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the differences between IUI and IVF and when you should consider changing course. Here we offer a breakdown of both treatments to give you a better understanding of both treatment options.  

While IUI and IVF both provide couples struggling with fertility a path to pregnancy, IUI is certainly the more “natural” option, but its success depends heavily on your diagnosis and isn’t without its own risks. Let’s take a look at the two procedures in a little more detail.  

What Exactly is IUI? 

Many couples prefer to begin fertility treatment with IUI, also known as artificial insemination, which is both less invasive and much less expensive. The cycles are also easier to complete, with minimal side effects. However, IUI is often less effective than IVF, and your expense adds up if you need more than a few cycles. 

IUI is a simple procedure often performed right in your doctor’s office. The lab collects your partner’s sperm or donor sperm and “washes” it, removing the seminal fluid to concentrate the sperm. Then your doctor inserts the concentrated sperm directly into your uterus.  

Because the sperm bypasses the cervix directly into the uterus, it has a shorter trip to the fallopian tubes. That shortened path means more sperm are available to fertilize the waiting egg, increasing your chances for conception.   

Your doctor performs IUI in conjunction with your natural ovulation or, for optimal success, may suggest using fertility medication, thus increasing your ovulation function. Learn more about the step-by-step process here. 

Who Benefits from IUI? 

As stated above, your course of treatment depends on your diagnosis and the advice of your physician. But for couples or individuals experiencing mild endometriosis, mild male factor infertility, or a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, the first course is usually IUI.  

Those who are poor IUI candidates include:   

  • Women with a diagnosis of severe endometriosis  
  • History of pelvic adhesions and scar tissue  
  • Disease or severe scarring of the fallopian tubes  
  • Severe male factor infertility  

IVF Explained 

IVF is more involved than IUI and includes various procedures, beginning with ovarian stimulation. Normal ovulation most often produces one egg. When you’re going through IVF, your doctor prescribes a course of hormonal injections stimulating your ovaries to produce several eggs at one time. Of course, the number of eggs you produce varies depending on your age, medical history, and ovarian reserve, or the number of eggs in your ovaries.   

Once the eggs mature, your doctor schedules you for the egg retrieval, which is an outpatient surgical procedure. Once retrieved, the eggs go to the lab, where they are fertilized with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm. After a few days of monitoring and growth, the eggs become embryos. Before transfer to your uterus, another outpatient procedure, you may opt for genetic testing to ensure the viability of your embryos.  

Who Benefits from IVF? 

IVF is likely the best procedure for those diagnosed with the following infertility issues:  

  • Blocked fallopian tubes or tubal ligation  
  • Ovulatory disorders or lack of ovulation  
  • Advanced or severe endometriosis  
  • Diminished ovarian reserve  
  • Few viable eggs  
  • Extremely low sperm count or motility  
  • Previous vasectomy  
  • Use of donor eggs  
  • Use of gestational carrier or surrogate  
  • Previous failed IUI  

When to Consider IVF after IUI 

Doctors encourage most couples to pivot from IUI to IVF after three or more failed IUI cycles. Because of the lower success rate for IUI (roughly 20%), it takes most couples more than a few cycles for conception. IVF is more intensive than IUI, but the precision of the procedure itself offers a much higher success rate, nearly double that of IUI.   

Because of the higher success rate, many couples opt for IVF from the start. As with any medical procedure, the success of IUI and IVF depends on the overall health of the patient. Lifestyle, age, and any pre-existing condition may impact the outcome of your treatment. And, as always, your decision depends a great deal on your doctor’s input. 

Remember that whatever course you choose, success may take longer than expected. Couples often go through several cycles before they conceive their baby. Patience and emotional well-being are essential to the success of your fertility journey.  

Let’s Work Together  

For more information on IUI, IVF, or ANY fertility treatments or issues please reach out to us at Rise Fertility. Our team utilizes cutting-edge technology, combined with an individualized approach, to help you realize your dream of growing your family.   

Each diagnosis is unique, and we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all. We begin with a comprehensive assessment, determine your specific needs, and proceed with the treatment plan that offers the best success for you. Contact Rise Fertility today, and together let’s navigate your journey to realizing your dream. 

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