What's the difference between IUI and IVF?

Frozen IVF vial being held by forceps.

Western fertility medicine has a lot to offer couples struggling with fertility. These options can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming when you are trying to take in information at the same time you are processing that this is harder than you expected it would be.  

Here is an excerpt for our book, Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy: an Integrative Approach to Fertility Care talking about IUIs and IVF:

Assisted Reproduction (ART) options include ovarian stimulation with medication followed by either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). IUI is the process of washing/preparing the sperm and placing it with a catheter past the cervix into the uterine cavity near  ovulation. IVF is the process of removing eggs from the ovaries with a procedure called an egg retrieval. The eggs are then fertilized outside the body in the IVF lab, and the developing embryo(s) are placed into the uterine cavity with a catheter.

IVF is considerably more complicated and expensive than IUI but also more successful since it controls for more variables. Many couples will try ovulation induction with or without IUI as a first step and consider IVF at a later time if the IUIs are not successful. Patients who do IVF as a first step are typically patients with:

  • Tubal disease.
  • Significant male factor infertility (sperm counts too low for IUI to be successful).
  • Recurrent miscarriage (conceiving easily but miscarry pregnancies with chromosomal errors that may be screened for with IVF).
  • The need or desire to use IVF as a form of fertility preservation through freezing eggs or embryos.

When couples may have a short fertility window but want more than one child, many opt for IVF as a first step and may even freeze multiple embryos (embryo banking) before their first pregnancy attempt. 

These patients can include:

  • Anyone starting their family later in life. 
  • Women with severe endometriosis.
  • Women with diminished ovarian reserve.

Before you start fertility treatment, have a discussion with your doctor about your family goals and make a strategy that’s right for you!

I hope this excerpt helped clarify the difference between IUI and IVF and when they can be used to increase your chances of success. As always, feel free to schedule a free discovery call if you have questions.