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IUI vs. IVF: How to Choose?

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Many couples are presented with multiple options when deciding on assisted reproductive technology. Of the many options, your provider may offer IUI. We will be discussing what is IUI and how it compares to IVF. Additionally, we will review whether IUI or IVF is preferred in your clinical setting.

What is IUI?

Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is an artificial method of insemination. For this procedure, sperm is placed into the uterus via a catheter. IUI seeks to increase the number of healthy sperm that reach the fallopian tubes during a woman’s fertile timeframe.

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a multi-step procedure used to achieve pregnancy. IVF involves egg stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization and embryo transfer.

When Is IUI Used?

There are certain settings in which IUI may be preferred. This includes couples with unexplained infertility, same sex female couples and single women who desire insemination with donor sperm.

What Are the Benefits of IUI vs. IVF?

IUI is minimally invasive. With IUI, a woman can quickly return to her normal activities. The procedure is usually performed in the clinic, with minimal side effects. IVF, in contrast, is more invasive. For IVF, women are required to self-inject medications for several days during egg stimulation. Additionally, IVF involves egg retrieval under anesthesia. Depending on the patient, days to weeks are required until the patient has completely healed.

IUI is less costly that IVF. Many couple chose to start with IUI as a first step in unexplained infertility because of the tremendous cost savings. In the United States, an IUI cycle costs approximately $1,000. An IVF cycle, in contrast, may cost between $12,000 - $20,000 (without including the additional costs of medication). Adding procedures such intracytoplasmic niniiiintracytoplasmic sperm sperm injection (ICSI) can further increase the cost of IVF.

There is also an emotional component of the decision making process. IVF tends to be more time consuming and perhaps even more stressful. Many women elect to proceed with IUI prior to IVF for psychological wellness.

Depending on the reason for assisted reproductive technology, IVF generally is more successful. Some sources indicate that IVF success rates are around 50% per treatment for women under 35 years of age. IUIs, in contrast, have a success rate of 5 to 20% per treatment.

Takeaway Message:

Your provider may offer you both IUI and IVF as potential treatment options. While IUI is less invasive and less expensive than IVF, IVF generally has higher success rates. Due to the higher costs of IVF, some couples elect to first proceed with IUI when facing unexplained infertility. Couples should be encouraged to discuss the recommended treatment options in their case.

Have you undergone IUI treatment? We would love to hear about your experiences. Please share in the comments below.

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