IVF and IUI are the two most most commonly used methods of assisted reproduction so it stands to reason that IVF vs IUI is a standard question that couples ask when pursuing fertility treatments. There are factors to weigh on both sides and there is a significant cost difference but there are some situations where only one method will work. Here are some of the considerations your doctor will likely walk you through.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is a procedure where sperm is placed directly into a woman’s uterus in an attempt to achieve fertilization. You and your partner may benefit from an IUI if:
- The female has an ovulation disorder and has attempted to achieve pregnancy with ovulation-inducing drugs with no success (in some cases)
- The female has an issue impacting the cervix
- The female has mild endometriosis
- The male has a low sperm count
- The male has issues ejaculating
- You are using donor sperm
- You are experiencing unexplained infertility
The thing people usually notice first is that a round of IUI is not anywhere near as expensive as a IVF. That naturally causes people to be drawn to this option first. Even though success rates are undeniably much higher with IVF - the cost comparison is drastic enough that you can undergo IUI multiple times and it won’t be as expensive as a single round of IVF.
Prices for IUI vary by clinic and situation but typically range anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500 per cycle. Yes, prices are lower with this option but that does not mean IUI’s aren’t a course of action to be taken seriously. Because IUI’s do not require hormones, medications, or invasive surgical procedures, side effects are minimal. It is a non-invasive procedure and women are less likely to experience health problems as a result. With each cycle your chances of achieving pregnancy increase.
Success rates are comparable to those trying to get pregnant naturally with healthily functioning reproductive systems. These rates most often depend on the age of the female, the status of her fallopian tubes, and the male’s sperm count. According to the latest research, women under the age of 35 have 10-20% chance of pregnancy, whereas women between 35-40 have 10% and women above 40 have a 2-5% chance. If you are a woman over the age of 35, you may be more inclined to try IVF. In most cases for women under 35, doctors usually recommend 5-6 cycles of IUI before recommending IVF.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization is the process where a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm are combined outside of the body to achieve fertilization. The fertilized embryo(s) are then placed directly into the uterus with the hopes of producing a successful pregnancy.
Though the prices for this option are exponentially higher, so are success rates. The process of ensuring fertilization outside of the body and returning it directly to the uterus increases the chances for success. Women under the age of 35 have about a 43% chance of getting pregnant and women 35-40 years of age and up have about a 20% chance. A single IVF cycle can cost $8,500-$10,000 though many fertility clinics (including the Center of Reproductive Medicine) offer unlimited frozen transfers for the next 12 months after the first try for no additional cost.
Some doctors tend to recommend women in certain situations such as those with a tubal ligation, severe cases of endometriosis, and those approaching and above their 40’s go right for the IVF route, as IUI costs will only add up.
You and your partner may benefit from IVF if:
- The female has an ovulation disorder and has attempted to achieve pregnancy with ovulation-inducing drugs with no success
- The female has blocked or damaged fallopian tubes or has had them removed
- The female has advanced endometriosis
- The male has a low sperm count
- One or both persons has a genetic disorder
- The couple is experiencing unexplained infertility
- The couple has undergone 3-6 or more failed IUI cycles
As IVF requires stimulation medications to increase egg production, there is a greater possibility that there will be side effects. They can range from mild cramping and breast tenderness, to more harmful results such as ovarian stimulation syndrome. In this case the ovaries become swollen and painful in response to an overload of hormones in the system. This is a rare response, but it is important to be aware of how your body might react, and that with invasive procedures, you are always taking a risk.
What’s right for you?
When it comes down to it, choosing which is right for you between IUI and IVF depends on your budget, your age, and the conditions of both partners reproductive organs. Both procedures have promising histories of being successful, and it is up to you to decide which path you are most comfortable with. Trying IUI is often recommended first, but if time is a factor for you or you fall on the more challenging end of cases, IVF may be the better route to go. Talk over your situation with your doctor and consider the outcomes carefully.