The difference between IUI and IVF

Individuals and couples with fertility issues often need help to get pregnant. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are two types of assisted reproduction technologies recommended by fertility doctors.

During an IUI procedure, sperm is inserted directly into the uterus, reducing the distance it travels to reach the woman’s eggs. This outpatient procedure usually happens the day after medicinally-stimulated ovulation and takes roughly five to 10 minutes.

IVF requires more steps, starting with the woman receiving a high dose of hormones to increase egg production. Once the eggs mature, they are removed by a doctor and combined in a lab with the partner’s or donor’s sperm. Any embryos that result are either transferred into the uterus or frozen for use later.

Which one is likely to be recommended?

It depends. Fertility doctors first need to assess why you are having trouble conceiving. They will look for causes, which may include blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, sperm motility issues, and irregular ovulation. They also consider your age, personal and family health history, and other factors.

They will likely recommend IUI if the fertility issue can’t be diagnosed or the male shows mild infertility issues. IUI is less invasive than IVF and also costs less. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology says IUI runs up to $2,000 per cycle, depending upon the clinic, medications, and treatment plan.

IVF may not be recommended until after four unsuccessful IUI cycles or may be the primary recommendation when initial examinations reveal endometriosis, a history of miscarriages, blocked fallopian tubes, or severe male-factor infertility. Doctors also consider age and family considerations. IVF is more expensive, with one cycle usually costing between $12,000 and $17,000.

Is one procedure more successful than the other?

Neither IUI nor IVF provides guarantees of you getting pregnant. Fertility experts say IVF is successful 50% to 75% after the first cycle for most patients. However, multiple cycles may be needed. The success rate for IUI is lower: 15% to 20% after the first cycle and 40% to 50% after up to four rounds.

But experts say don’t get caught up in those percentages. Everyone’s fertility issues are different, and the success rate depends more on your body and other unique factors. If neither is successful, doctors may recommend considering donor egg IVF (DE IVF) or donor sperm. If there are uterine issues, surrogacy may be the best option.

The entire process can seem overwhelming, adding to the anxiety already created by fertility issues. In addition to the physical, emotional, and financial challenges, assisted reproduction can present legal questions, especially when intended parents use egg or sperm donors or turn to surrogates to grow their family. Working with a Minnesota attorney with extensive experience in assisted reproductive law is advisable to navigate these issues and explore all your options.