Wondering the difference between IUI vs. IVF? As two of the most popular fertility treatments available, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are similar but have significant differences. IUI is a simple procedure where the sperm is placed in the reproductive tract. IVF is more complex and involves sperm and eggs, which are combined to form an embryo in a laboratory setting.
What is IUI?
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is oftentimes the first step in fertility treatment for couples experiencing infertility. Otherwise known as artificial insemination, it is a less expensive and less invasive fertility treatment option with success in numerous patients.
To accomplish an IUI, a specialist places highly concentrated sperm into the uterus at the time of ovulation, which boosts fertilization by increasing the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes.
Apart from helping couples with unexplained infertility, IUI is also common for couples experiencing ovulation issues, mild endometriosis, and male infertility issues with sperm, or erectile dysfunction.
Intrauterine insemination is more affordable than other fertility treatments, which is why many couples may choose to begin with it. Other benefits of intrauterine insemination include:
- The enhancement of sperm quality with the washing procedure
- It is performed with or without fertility drugs
- Less invasive than other fertility treatments
- Provides gentler conditions than other treatments
- Shorter in length than other treatments
Intrauterine insemination is a simple procedure that is minimally invasive and requires a minor time commitment over the course of a woman’s monthly cycle.
Stimulation and Monitoring of Egg Growth
To begin, a woman takes oral or injectable medications to stimulate the growth and maturation of her eggs and prepare for ovulation.
Typically, the woman is given fertility medications for a time period of 5-14 days. While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests will occur every 2-3 days. Ultrasound monitoring measures egg follicle growth as well as the increased thickness of the uterine lining. Blood tests monitor estrogen levels related to egg growth and ovarian function.
Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the woman is given a trigger shot that places eggs in the final stage of maturation and causes ovulation. Once the shot is administered, the IUI procedure will take place within 12-36 hours.
Sperm Collection and Washing
On the day of the procedure, the male partner provides a fresh sperm sample or a previously collected vial that will be thawed, then processed by our laboratory for insemination. In a process called sperm washing, the sperm is separated from other semen components, creating a highly concentrated sample for the procedure.
For the intrauterine insemination procedure, washed sperm are placed directly into the uterine cavity using a thin, flexible catheter. The procedure only takes a few minutes to complete.
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology and a process of fertilization where eggs are retrieved from a woman and inseminated with sperm from a man to create embryos. After monitoring embryo development, one or multiple embryos are transferred to the uterus of a woman. The remaining embryos are frozen through a process called vitrification.
In vitro fertilization treats infertility and other genetic issues, such as blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, or decreased sperm count.
As one of the most popular fertilization treatments, in vitro fertilization provides multiple benefits, including:
- Diagnoses fertilization issues
- Helps patients who would otherwise be unable to conceive
- More successful than other forms of assisted reproductive technology
- You can use donated sperm or eggs
- You have control over the timing
Overall, in vitro fertilization is an extensive process that requires two to three months to complete.
Prepare for Ovarian Stimulation
A patient may be placed on birth control for one month to control the timing of their cycle, decrease the chances of cyst production, and synchronize follicle production.
Ovarian Stimulation and Monitoring
In a monthly cycle, the body releases one egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes. During an in vitro fertilization cycle, the number of eggs is increased to create multiple embryos for treatment. With ovarian stimulation, we increase follicle production, which increases the number of mature eggs within the ovaries for egg retrieval. Medication is administered daily through a tiny needle injection for 8-14 days to stimulate the ovaries.
While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests are required. Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the final medication step is a trigger shot, which allows the eggs to develop to the final stage of maturation and begins the process of ovulation.
Egg Retrieval Procedure
Fresh or frozen sperm can be used to inseminate the eggs. If a fresh sample is being used, on the same day as the egg retrieval, a sperm sample must also be collected. It is best to abstain from ejaculation for two or more days prior to sample collection.
Approximately, the egg retrieval will take place 36 hours after the trigger shot. During the 15-minute procedure, a patient is placed under sedation. Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is guided into each follicle and aspirated for collection.
The amount of eggs obtained during a retrieval will vary based on the patient’s response to stimulation, ovarian reserve, age, and various other factors. Some patients experience spotting, bloating, and mild discomfort. However, most patients fully recover within one or two days.
Egg Fertilization Through Sperm Injection
The eggs and sperm are taken to an embryology lab, where they are placed in optimal conditions to foster growth. The eggs can be inseminated via two methods – conventional insemination or interact plasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The eggs and sperm are then placed in an incubator to facilitate fertilization and embryo development.
Monitoring of Embryo Development
To start the observation of fertilization, the growth and development of the embryos will be monitored. Due to various reasons, there will be fertilized eggs that do not develop into healthy embryos.
Embryo Transfer Procedure
Dependent upon embryo development, embryos are transferred anywhere from three to six days after fertilization. The embryos will be evaluated, and the most viable embryos will be selected for transfer.
Using a soft, ultra-thin catheter, the embryo will be transferred to the uterus under ultrasound guidance. The procedure takes two minutes and can be compared to a pap smear in terms of discomfort.
Freezing of Remaining Embryos
The remaining embryos will be cryopreserved, or vitrified, using a fast-freezing and critical process called vitrification.
If the cycle does not result in pregnancy, the remaining frozen embryos can allow for future pregnancy opportunities. Due to scientific advances, the success rates of a frozen embryo transfer are compared to that of a fresh embryo transfer.
Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, patients will undergo a blood pregnancy test to receive their test results.
IUI vs. IVF: What is Right for You?
If you are ready to conceive a child, both IUI and IVF are effective fertility treatments. However, the procedures affect everyone differently, so there are multiple factors to consider.
IUI, for example, is an ideal starting point for couples experiencing unexplained infertility or ovulation issues. It is not an effective treatment for specific diagnoses and conditions, including:
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Diminished ovarian reserve
- Low sperm count
- Low sperm mobility
- Pelvic infections
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- Severe endometriosis
IVF, on the other hand, is recommended for couples who experienced a lack of success with IUI, advanced endometriosis, or diminished egg supply. However, it is more expensive and invasive than IUI.
At Vios Hoffman Estates, We Make Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True
If you are considering IUI vs. IVF, we are here to help. At Vios Hoffman Estates as well as our other locations, we provide you with a team of compassionate doctors, patient-centered care, expertise, testing, and solutions. By understanding how your body works, you can take control of your fertility health and jumpstart your dreams of becoming a parent.
While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.
To discuss your options and learn about our treatment options, contact us today to schedule an appointment.