January 26, 2022 | By: Kacie Shrock, Registered Fertility Nurse
What Is IUI vs IVF
If you have been trying to conceive for a little while and are starting to consider reproductive assistance, here at Premom we want to help you better understand your options so you can be your best advocate and make informed decisions.
Let’s discuss the two most common fertility treatments; Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, is a procedure where sperm is placed directly into the uterus using a small catheter. An IUI cycle can be done either as a natural cycle with no medications, or with the use of oral fertility medications such as clomiphene citrate (Clomid) or letrozole (Femara) to help with ovulation and maturation of the egg.
Natural Versus Medicated IUI Cycle
- A natural unmedicated cycle is completed without the use of fertility medications and dependent on when natural ovulation occurs.
- You should expect to start tracking ovulation after menstruation ends and inform your doctor of your LH peak.
- A medicated cycle is completed with the use of fertility medications such as clomiphene citrate or letrozole,
- You may expect to take these medications for about 5 days and your doctor may want you to track ovulation naturally with LH strips or order a trigger shot to help release the egg.
The IUI procedure is scheduled based on when you ovulate. This is a very time sensitive procedure as we want to ensure the sperm are in the uterus right prior to or during ovulation. This is why it is so important to use ovulation tests during your IUI cycle to ensure you don’t miss your fertile window. On the day of the IUI, the lab will wash and prepare the sperm, whether it's from your partner or a donor, and a small flexible catheter will be inserted past the cervix to the top of the uterus to place the sperm close to the fallopian tubes. The insemination should not be painful but you may have some cramping and discomfort as the catheter is placed in the uterus.
What’s The Difference Between IUI and IVF?
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the process where eggs are surgically retrieved from the ovaries and exposed to sperm in a lab to create embryos which are then transferred back to the uterus for implantation. This process is more invasive, more financially expensive and typically started after a few IUI attempts. IVF is also more lengthy and can take anywhere from 1-3 months depending on your protocol, but it is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology.
During IVF, you will likely be taking medications to help stimulate the growth of follicles to increase the chances of multiple mature eggs. Once ready for the egg retrieval, you will go through a procedure where the eggs are retrieved from the ovary prior to ovulation. Once outside the body, the egg will then be met with the sperm in a lab and observed by an embryologist for the next 3-5 days. After fertilization has taken place, the embryo can then either be transferred back to the uterus for implantation or frozen for future embryo transfers.
Reasons For Doing IUI and IVF
Some reasons for doing IVF include fallopian tube blockage or damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis, impaired sperm production or male factor infertility, genetic disorders, unexplained infertility or fertility preservation.
If there is no need to start with IVF right away, you may be considered as a great candidate for IUI because it is less invasive and expensive than IVF. This may be a great start for a couple having difficulties with ovulation, intercourse timing, sexual dysfunction or same sex couples.
Which Fertility Treatment is Best?
The most important takeaway about IUI and IVF is that each treatment plan is individualized to the patient based on their needs and medical history. There is no one size fits all in the fertility world. We are all unique and our bodies may respond differently to certain medications or protocols than someone else. It is important to discuss your history with your provider and develop a plan that is best for you.
Stay tuned here on the Premom app for more blogs and educational information on IUI coming soon.
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Kacie is a registered nurse who specializes in fertility and reproductive health. She has always had a passion for women’s health so after spending a few years patient facing in a fertility clinic, Kacie launched her business Your Fertile Soul LLC. As a fertility coach, she supports women and couples virtually across the world while on their journey to their dream families. She provides a positive and optimistic outlook on the challenges women and couples face while encouraging and educating her clients to be their best health advocate. Schedule a virtual consultation with Kacie through your Premom app!