If you have trouble conceiving, you're probably familiar with the two most popular and common fertility treatments available: intrauterine insemination (IUI) – where sperm is placed directly into the uterus using a catheter – and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), where eggs are surgically removed and fertilised outside of the body for subsequent implantation. But – how do you determine which approach is best for you? Well, to help you decide if you should opt for IUI or IVF, here are three critical criteria you need to consider before calling up a fertility clinic.
#1 – Risk of multiple pregnancies for IVF and IUI
Medicated IUI – where you're taking fertility medication to stimulate ovulation – carries a significant risk of multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets or more), which carries serious health risks to both you and your babies. Multiple babies are more likely to have a low birth weight, be premature, or die before or after birth. While most licensed fertility clinics will make you go through scans to monitor your follicles during the treatment to ensure that only a safe number is mature before the procedure, they cannot eliminate the risk.
On the other hand, recent advances in IVF – including blastocyst transfer – mean that most clinics now transfer only one or two embryos for implantation per cycle. As a result, your risk of multiple pregnancies with IVF will be much lower compared to that with an IUI.
#2 – IVF and IUI costs
The price for a single IVF cycle ranges from £2,650 to £4,195 – considerably higher than the cost of IUI, which ranges from £350 to £1,000. Evidently, IUI can be an excellent option for you if you’re budget-conscious.
#3 – IVF and IUI success rates
Statistically, IUI is less successful than IVF, with the success rate gap widening as women age. The following statistics are obtained from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA).
IUI success rates
Under 35 – 18%
35 to 37 – 14%
38 to 39 – 12%
40 to 42 – 5%
Over 42 – 1%
IVF success rates
Under 35: 29%
35 – 37: 23%
38 – 39: 15%
40 – 42: 9%
43 – 44: 3%
Over 44: 2%
So, which is better?
Given its relatively inexpensive price tag, IUI treatment can be a good starting point. Also, since IUI is a much shorter process than IVF, if your first cycle is successful, it could be the quickest route to getting pregnant.
However, you also need to consider its potential health risks and success rates. At all ages, IUI's success rate is significantly lower than IVF's. So, if you're in your late 30s and early 40s, you may get pregnant faster by choosing IVF over IUI. Many couples eventually switch over to IVF after multiple failed IUI cycles, which might negate the cost advantage IUI had over IVF. If in the unfortunate event, you experience three failed IUI treatments, you would have spent £3,000 (assuming each round costs £1,000). Instead, you could have tried one cycle of IVF and had a better statistical chance of getting pregnant.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming fertility challenges. You should always consult the professional opinion of your fertility doctor to determine which treatment is best for you and your situation.