IUI Vs. IVF: What’s the Difference?

by | Dec 10, 2021 | IVF Services

Many of our patients ask about IUI vs. IVF – what’s the difference between the procedures, and which one is better? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as every patient is unique. We’ve provided an overview of the differences between IUI and IVF, so you can feel informed with the basics as you discuss your options with your fertility provider.

What Is IUI?

IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a simple procedure in which prepared sperm is placed through into the uterus when the patient is most fertile. Before the IUI procedure, the sperm is “washed” to concentrate it, and then sent through a small catheter directly into the uterus. By concentrating the sperm and bypassing the cervix, IUI can increase the chances of sperm reaching an egg and, hopefully, fertilizing it. IUI can be done during a patient’s natural cycle, or combined with fertility medication. Timing is very important, so the patient’s ovulation is monitored either with at-home tests, in-clinic ultrasounds or hormone testing. The IUI procedure takes place in our offices, lasts about 5-10 minutes, and feels similar to a gynecological exam.

What Is IVF?

IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, a procedure in which an egg and sperm are retrieved and combined in a lab to create an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus for implantation. The patient takes different hormonal medications to stimulate the ovaries and produce several mature eggs for retrieval. The egg retrieval procedure is relatively minor; after the retrieval, the eggs can be combined right away with fresh sperm or cryopreserved (frozen) for later use. Once the egg and sperm are combined, the resulting embryo can also either be transferred right away or cryopreserved for later use. There are several options for IVF, including different kinds of medications, different approaches to the fertilization process, and genetic screening for the embryo. Each IVF cycle can take 4-8 weeks from initial medication to implantation, depending on several factors.

What Is the Difference Between IUI Vs. IVF?

Apart from the procedural differences described above, the two biggest differences between IUI and IVF are cost and success rates. IVF generally has a much higher success rate; the national average success rate for all types of IVF is quoted as 30% for women of all ages, but significantly higher (up to as high as 50%) for women under the age of 35. Genetic screening of embryos can increase the success with each embryo transfer to up to 60–70% depending on many factors. IUI, on the other hand, has average success rates of 5-15%, although there are many different factors involved that can increase success rates.

While IVF is more successful than IUI, it is also more expensive. IUI costs typically range from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more per cycle. IVF averages $11,000-$12,00 per cycle in the US, but this average does not include the cost of medications and other steps in the process that may be recommended like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and genetic screening of embryos. However, the lower success rates for IUI means you may need several cycles to become pregnant – or, after three failed cycles, your specialist may recommend you shift to IVF.

Is IVF or IUI Better?

There’s no one best answer between IUI and IVF. Your treatment options should be discussed with your fertility specialist after thorough testing and discussions about your reproductive history and goals. In general, here are some guidelines for when IUI or IVF is recommended.

IUI is often recommended for women or couples who:

  • Have mild male factor infertility, such as low sperm counts or poor sperm parameters
  • Have unexplained infertility, as a first line fertility treatment
  • Are using donor sperm or sperm that was frozen before a surgery or treatment like chemotherapy
  • Have difficulty with intercourse (sexual dysfunction)
  • Have difficulty timing intercourse due to travel

IVF is generally recommended for women or couples who:

  • Have blocked fallopian tubes
  • Have significant male factor infertility, such as very low sperm count or motility
  • Have severe endometriosis
  • Have low quantity and quality of eggs
  • Have been not been successful with  IUI treatment 

Ask Our Fertility Team About IUI Vs. IVF

Every patient’s experience of infertility is different. Our team of fertility experts is here to help you navigate the process and determine the best treatment plan for you. For more information about the difference of IUI vs. IVF, set up an appointment with us today.