Doctor or lab technician adjusting needle to fertilize a human egg in IVF petri dish

IUI Versus IVF

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If you are having difficulty conceiving and are looking into fertility treatments, you have likely come across the acronyms ‘IUI’ and ‘IVF’. 

Both IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) have assisted countless patients in expanding their families. Yet, they are two very different treatment paths. In this article, we’ll briefly examine what each fertility treatment includes, the differences between IUI and IVF, and when one is recommended over the other.  

What is IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)?

IUI is considered a less invasive treatment and is often the first step for aspiring parents, depending on the results of the initial fertility assessment. IUI increases the chances of pregnancy by inserting the healthiest sperm into the uterus at an optimal time in the menstrual cycle. 

During IUI, the sperm sample (by the male partner or a pre-arranged donor) is prepared using a method called “sperm washing.” This ensures that highly active sperm are used, which increases the chance of conception.

Ovulation is then monitored. Depending on your medical history, fertility medications may be used to encourage ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, the sperm is inserted into the uterus via the use of a catheter. The whole procedure takes less than 10 minutes. 

Two weeks later, a follow-up appointment for blood work is booked to confirm whether pregnancy has occurred.

What is a Medicated IUI?

A medicated IUI is where fertility drugs are used to stimulate the maturation and ovulation of more than one egg. Most times, this increases the success rates of the IUI process since more eggs are readily available for fertilization.

What is IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)?

IVF is one of the most common and well-known fertility treatment options. It may be considered over IUI if the cause(s) of infertility is because of advanced age, damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, uterine scarring, PCOS, endometriosis, ovulation issues or unexplained infertility. 

In simple terms, IVF treatment involves taking fertility medication to mature as many eggs as possible. Those eggs are extracted during an egg retrieval process and fertilized in a special IVF laboratory. They are then grown into embryos and transferred back into the uterus with the goal of implantation.

Depending on the aspiring parents’ medical history, a pre-arranged donor egg, donor sperm or gestational surrogate may be a part of the fertility treatment plan. 

Approximately 10 to 12 days following your embryo transfer, your fertility team conducts a pregnancy test to determine if the IVF cycle was successful. Typically, one IVF cycle takes approximately three to four weeks. However, depending on the situation, these steps might be spaced out, which means it can take longer. 

What are the Main Differences Between IUI and IVF?

There are some obvious differences between IUI and IVF regarding their processes and procedures. Treatment costs, success rates, chances of multiple pregnancies, and more can also differ. Below, we examine these differences in more detail, helping you make a more informed decision when it comes to fertility treatment.

Treatment Costs of IVF and IUI

We have reviewed the various differences between IVF and IUI — but you may wonder next how they differ in terms of costs in Canada? This is a commonly asked question, however, the answer is not as straightforward. IUI vs IVF costs will vary greatly because of the number of cycles, medications, and more. For IVF, costs will be higher if a gestational surrogate, egg donor, or additional genetic tests are part of your treatment plan. You can learn more about the fees at TRIO here or OHIP-covered IVF cycles here.

Treatment Success Rates

You might be curious what the difference is between IUI vs IVF success rates. Your success rate depends on many factors, including the underlying cause of infertility. On average, IUI vs IVF produces differing success rates. So, let’s examine this further. What is the difference between the two?

IUI Treatment Success Rates

IUI treatment success rates vary depending on multiple factors, yet on average they are 5-15%. Again, this often depends on the cause of infertility, as well as any medications used. However, for women/assigned females at birth (AFAB) under 35, medicated IUI success rates are around 10-20%.

IVF Treatment Success Rates

IVF success rates for women/AFAB under 35 years of age are approximately 45-50%. For Women between 42 to 45 years of age, this number drastically declines to about 10%-15%.

Chances of Having Multiple Pregnancies

Since in many IUI and IVF procedures multiple eggs are used, you might wonder about the chances of having twins. Usually, these odds are fairly low — however, they do slightly vary between the two treatments.

Chances of Twins or Triplets with IUI

With IUI, it is not necessarily the procedure itself that leads to multiples pregnancies. Usually, this depends on the type of medication (if any) taken during this process. When taking any medication for IUI, it’s best to ask your doctor about the chances of multiple pregnancies to determine if this could be a possibility.

Chance of Twins or Triplets Pregnancies with IVF

TRIO, like many fertility teams, actively looks to reduce this risk to ensure the safety of their patients by opting for single embryo transfers (SET). This means that only one embryo is transferred per cycle, which prevents multiple pregnancies.

Embryo Genetic Screening or Testing

For embryo genetic testing in IVF, this is something that can be done before the embryo transfer phase. This can be potentially beneficial for couples or individuals who want a shorter time to pregnancy by screening out unhealthy embryos or are concerned about potentially passing on genetic conditions. Unfortunately, for IUI, this is not available since IUI involves the insertion of sperm into the uterus as opposed to the transfer of a whole embryo.

IUI Vs. IVF: How to Decide Which Fertility Treatment is Right for You

Some patients start their fertility treatment with IUI. If 2-3 cycles of IUI are unsuccessful, then they move onto IVF. However, the choice depends on multiple factors, which may include (but are not limited to): how quickly you want to get pregnant, how many children you want to have, maternal age, the causes of infertility, and recommendations made by your fertility team. However, the choice truly depends on the causes of infertility, your budget, your insurance, and recommendations made by your fertility team. Additional factors are considered, such as how quickly you want to get pregnant, how many children you want to have, and maternal age.  

When you are ready, the TRIO team is here for you. Together, we can determine the best treatment plan to help you achieve the family you deserve. Contact us today.