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In Vitro Fertilization vs. Intrauterine Insemination: Everything You Need to Know

Updated on June 24, 2019
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Heather Thompson is the Marketing Strategist of Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health, a fertility treatment center in Scottsdale, AZ.

Fertility rates seem to be dropping everywhere. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7 million Americans are infertile. Thankfully, the advent of assisted reproductive technology (ART), it is now entirely possible for childless couples to have a baby despite the odds.

Of the many fertility treatments available today, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are proving to be the most common. They also tend to be confused with one another, so here’s what you need to know about both procedures, from their pros and cons down to their differences.

Facts about IUI

As the name of the procedure suggests, intrauterine insemination (IUI) is all about facilitating fertilization by transferring sperm directly into a woman’s uterus. IUI is done mainly to try to boost the number of sperm that swims toward the fallopian tube and increase the chance that one of them would be able to fertilize the egg.

The IUI process is also much less invasive, as it only uses a catheter to insert the sperm directly into the intended mother’s uterus. In most cases, doctors use medications such as clomiphene or Gonadotropin to stimulate ovulation.

Once the LH hormone increase that marks impending ovulation takes place, the doctor will proceed with the IUI procedure about 24 to 36 hours later. To maximize the number of sperm cells that make it to the uterus, the semen sample to be used will be washed to separate the semen from the seminal fluid.

The procedure is a speedy one, often taking just a few minutes to finish. IUI is also a lot cheaper than IVF. The discomfort a patient feels is minimal, and so is the medication required.

IUI, however, has a much lower success rate at only 20%. And when it does work, there’s the risk of a multiple pregnancy because no one can control the number of eggs that develop, and there is no assurance that only one egg will be fertilized.

Facts about IVF

To say that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process is much more complex than that of IUI would be an understatement.

If a woman chooses to go for IVF to have a child, she will have to be prepared for the retrieval of mature eggs from her ovaries, a much more invasive procedure that will require sedation and pain medication.

Once retrieved, the intended mother’s eggs will be brought to a lab where it will be fertilized with the sperm of the intended father or a known or anonymous donor to produce an embryo. The embryo will then be implanted into her uterus or that of a surrogate, if she chooses to go down that path.

One of the most significant advantages of IVF over IUI is its success rate of 40%, which is even higher than the 20-35% per-cycle success rate of natural conception.

IVF also allows for preimplantation genetic testing, which identifies genetic defects within fertilized eggs and corrects them before implantation. This ensures that genetic diseases and disorders won’t be passed on to the child.

IVF, however, is not without its disadvantages.

For one, the entire process will take several weeks, from the mature egg retrieval process to the final results of preimplantation genetic testing. It’s also quite pricey compared to IUI. If a woman’s insurance policy does not cover IVF or any of the procedures involved, she will likely spend $12,000 on average.

The patient may also experience side effects such as headaches, rashes, and mood swings due to the medication used to stimulate the production of her eggs for retrieval.

These are the most fundamental things you need to know about IUI and IVF. It’s entirely up to you which form of assisted reproduction you would like to go for. If you go by success rates as many couples do, then IVF is the right fertility treatment for you. However, if the price of IVF is too steep for you, IUI isn’t such a bad alternative. It has essentially the same success rate as natural conception, and it’s something you can do over and over again because it’s more affordable, and is much less invasive than IVF.

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