IUI vs. IVF: What Are the Differences?

Over 6 million people across the U.S. struggle to conceive each year. Fortunately, fertility treatments can help aspiring parents make their dreams of parenthood a reality. Two popular options are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). People often confuse the two, but an easy way to keep them clearly defined in your mind is to remember that the fundamental difference is in how the egg gets fertilized. Understanding the distinctions between IUI and IVF can help you determine which option might suit your situation the best. 

What is the IUI Process? 

IUIs are considered a less invasive form of fertility treatment, which is why many people may choose to start their fertility journey with IUI. The day of the IUI procedure is selected based on ultrasounds, the woman’s cycle, urinary LH tests, and the status of the developing follicle. The IUI begins with placing washed sperm, which is sperm separated from semen, directly into the uterus using a speculum. This treatment process can begin during a woman’s natural fertility cycle, though it is often performed with fertility medication that increases ovulatory function. By placing the sperm directly into the uterus, the sperm does not have to travel as far to fertilize the egg. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of IUI

IUI can be a great option for those dealing with PCOS, other anovulation or cervical mucus problems, or sperm health issues—including in same-sex couples; single mothers by choice; and patients with unexplained infertility. IUI is fast, effective and affordable, especially compared with other techniques. The process is pain-free and relatively easy, with low chances of complications.

While the probability of success differs from case to case, IUI boosts the monthly conception rate from 1-3% up to 5-10%. It is worth noting that IUI can be less effective than other methods like IVF. However, it is a great starting point for many starting to use assisted conception. Usually, when IUI is deemed appropriate, a few attempts are made before moving on to alternative, more complex procedures. 

What Does IVF Involve? 

During IVF, the egg gets fertilized in a lab, and the resulting embryo gets transferred back into the woman’s uterus. Typically, patients receive ovary-stimulating medication that causes the body to produce multiple eggs in one cycle. During these 8-12 days, the patient will be monitored with ultrasounds and bloodwork to ensure the process is going smoothly. Then the egg can be fertilized conventionally or through ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where a single sperm will be injected directly into an egg. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of IVF

IVF is one of the most popular forms of fertility treatment. It is a great option for same-sex couples and couples who have not been successful with IUI. The procedure allows doctors to bypass the fallopian tubes, which makes it helpful for patients experiencing blocked, damaged, or absent fallopian tubes. During IVF, the ability to use ICSI, a fertilization process that only requires one sperm cell for each egg, means that the chances of fertilization are higher even among severe cases of male infertility. 

IVF is one of the most successful assisted conception methods, but it is also more expensive than IUI. You should consider age, budget, insurance coverage, and your individual diagnosis when choosing between IVF or IUI. Consulting with one of our fertility treatment specialists is one of the best ways to decide whether IVF or IUI is right for you.

At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Reproductive Fertility, we work with all people, regardless of gender preference and sexual orientation, to resolve the challenges of getting pregnant. We will guide you every step of the way to help you make an informed decision that will give you the best chance at conceiving. Give us a call at 520-326-0001, and our specialists will discuss your options at length and help you set up an appointment. Start your fertility treatment journey today.