Ask Sofia: What is the real difference between IUI and IVF?
Sometimes getting pregnant is more difficult than you hoped or anticipated. In that case, your pregnancy journey might include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and/or in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
With IUI, sperm is injected directly into the uterus—reducing the distance sperm has to travel and increasing the chances that sperm and egg will unite. Also known as artificial insemination, IUI is a quick in-office procedure that uses a thin tube to inject the sperm. This can be part of a first step treatment plan for same-sex couples or those facing fertility challenges or other issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome, sperm issues, cervical mucus issues and more.
On the other hand, IVF is a multi-step process that involves egg stimulation, retrieval, lab fertilization and transfer. During this procedure, eggs are removed from the ovaries and sperm can be placed either nearby or directly with the egg (depending on the specific procedure and/or problem being addressed), then one or two of the resulting embryos are transferred back to the uterus. Since it bypasses the fallopian tubes, this can be a good option for those with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes; one version of the procedure requires only one sperm cell for each egg, so it can be a treatment even for some severe male infertility issues.
IUI is less expensive, less invasive and may be a first option for those with unexplained infertility. Patients who have several unsuccessful rounds of IUI or have severe male infertility, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes or multiple miscarriages might start with IVF. Success rates for both procedures vary based on age, conditions and other factors that should be discussed with a fertility specialist.
“Both of these treatments can play a powerful role for those struggling to get pregnant,” said Dr. David Clay. “This is a really personal and individual process so it’s important to talk with your doctor about what you’re experiencing, what your goals are and what potential next steps might be. We’re always here to support you in your pregnancy journey.”