IUI May Be All You Need to Boost Baby Chances

Infertility treatment is not synonymous with IVF (in vitro fertilization). In fact, this high-tech option represents less than 5 percent of all infertility treatments in the United States. Fertility specialists typically recommend IUI (intrauterine insemination) before IVF.  

Here’s a quick way to remember which is which. The letter U comes before the letter V. So IUI comes before IVF.

How is IUI Different From IVF?

IUI involves assisting the union of egg and sperm for fertilization inside the body, and IVF does the same — except outside th e body in a laboratory dish.

IUI is an office procedure that places sperm from a partner or donor into a woman’s uterus during ovulation. Placement is made high in the uterus, bypassing the cervix, to give sperm a better chance of reaching the fallopian tubes and fertilizing an egg. No anesthesia is needed. 

IVF is more complex and includes an outpatient surgical procedure to remove eggs, lab expertise for fertilization and embryo growth, and an office procedure to transfer embryo(s) to the uterus. 

Prior to placement in the uterus, sperm are “washed,” or separated, from the semen sample, concentrating the higher quality sperm into a smaller volume. Sperm washing also cleanses the sperm of potentially toxic chemicals that may cause adverse reactions in the uterus.

In most cases, IUI is done along with fertility medication that helps induce ovulation. This is called a stimulated cycle. When IUI occurs without medication, it’s called a natural cycle.

IUI is often considered as the first line of treatment for unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis or mild male factor infertility.

Who Can IUI Help?

Difference IUI IVF small

IUI is often considered as the first line of treatment for unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis or mild male factor infertility.

IUI can help patients when:

  • A woman has not been able to conceive using ovulation-inducing fertility medication
  • Fertility medication is used to increase the number of eggs a woman normally ovulates
  • There are minor abnormalities in the sperm sample 
  • The male partner has difficulty ejaculating
  • The male partner has frozen sperm obtained prior to surgery or treatment for diseases like testicular cancer
  • Donor sperm is being used 

IVF is generally recommended for:

  • Patients who’ve failed to conceive after three unsuccessful IUI attempts
  • Blocked, damaged or missing fallopian tubes
  • Male factor infertility, including decreased sperm count or sperm motility
  • Women with ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids or endometriosis
  • Genetic disorders
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Unexplained infertility

IUI and IVF Differ in Cost, Effectiveness

While your fertility specialist can best educate you on your treatment options, it’s wise to be aware of differences in cost and effectiveness for IUI and IVF. 

  • IUI typically ranges from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 per attempt, depending on medication used, blood work and other factors. However, it’s considered less effective than IVF. Multiple attempts may be needed to achieve pregnancy, adding to the cost.
  • In the U.S., the average cost of IVF is $11,000 to $12,000. Cost for additional attempts can be reduced if embryos are frozen for future use. The average IVF success rate for women of all ages, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, is around 30 percent. Rates rise to around 40 percent for women 35 and under. 
Small Steps: If you want to be pregnant and you’re not
The problem may not be yours alone. Women and men can have conditions that lead to infertility. Make sure you’re both evaluated during an infertility work-up.