Understanding Fertility Treatment Options
For most people, fertility treatment is synonymous with in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized outside the body by using a partner’s sperm or donor sperm. After successful fertilization, the egg is transferred into a woman’s uterus for implantation. If successful, a woman can go on to have a successful pregnancy. But other fertility options exist. Some couples don’t need IVF and can successfully conceive through intrauterine insemination (IUI). So, how do IVF and IUI differ?
What is IUI?
Whereas IVF requires a woman to take additional hormones to stimulate ovulation and egg harvesting, IUI does not. IUI is considered a fertility treatment because the procedure involves placing sperm directly inside a woman’s uterus during ovulation. However, the sperm is collected from a sample provided by a partner or donor and then washed and concentrated. Usually, medications aren’t needed, and the procedure is considered noninvasive. By eliminating the need for sperm to travel through the vagina and past the cervix, IUI can potentially make pregnancy possible for couples to conceive.
How IUI and IVF differ
The most significant difference between IUI and IVF is that a woman’s eggs aren’t removed for insemination outside of the body. Instead, only the sperm is artificially introduced. So, fertilization still takes place in a woman’s uterus. Plus, IUI tends to be cheaper than IVF. IUI can also be ideal for single or same-sex couples who don’t have underlying fertility issues but wish to conceive. Additionally, men with known fertility issues such as difficulty achieving an erection or ejaculating, a low sperm count, or decreased sperm motility can also benefit from IUI.
How IUI and IVF are similar
While IUI doesn’t require ovarian stimulation, in some cases, a woman may be prescribed medications to encourage the ovaries to release one or multiple eggs. However, IUI often also follows what is known as the natural cycle. In other words, a woman will track natural ovulation patterns and schedule an IUI session to coincide with ovulation.
Are there risks to getting IVF or IUI?
As with any medical procedure, both IVF and IUI have some health risks involved. With IVF, the biggest concern is around ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. The condition is caused by the ovaries over-responding to fertility medications and releasing too many eggs at once. Side effects can include cramping and fluid buildup in the abdomen. Both IUI and IVF can risk infection if medical instruments used during procedures aren’t properly sterilized. Aside from minimal discomfort, IUI that follows the natural cycle typically doesn’t have significant risks.
IUI or IVF, which is the right choice?
The choice between IUI or IVF isn’t made in a vacuum. The presence or absence of underlying fertility issues will often determine whether a couple should opt for IUI versus IVF. Meanwhile, same-sex couples and single women might naturally lean towards IUI if no fertility issues are present. Women and couples who think fertility treatments might benefit should speak with a physician or fertility specialist.