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If you have struggled to get pregnant and are considering help, you will likely hear about artificial insemination and/or in vitro fertilization. Each process is designed to assist someone to become pregnant; however, they are very different. Trying to determine the best option is largely based on the reason(s) natural conception has not occurred. The following is a general overview of the artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization process.
Artificial insemination, more commonly referred to as intrauterine insemination (IUI), is a minimally invasive procedure where viable sperm are injected via a catheter into the woman's uterus and released near the fallopian tubes. Prior to the procedure, the woman undergoes hormone injections to stimulate ovulation and sperm is collected from the man. If multiple follicles develop, the procedure may be postponed reducing the risk of multiple pregnancies.
IUI is significantly less expensive than IVF which makes it sound like a more appealing option initially. However, IUI is less successful than IVF and is applicable only to individuals with specific, minimal reproductive challenges. One statistic estimates roughly 15% success rates for individuals with a good prognosis. Couples who may want to consider IUI have experienced sterility for no more than three years and have no significant reproductive challenges (i.e. blocked fallopian tubes, history of endometriosis).
While the lower cost and less involved procedure may sound appealing, IUI does not offer viable information about the specific reproductive challenges that are impeding the couple's chances for becoming pregnant. IUI is an option for couples who have not been able to get pregnant for a brief period, for women who do not have blockage or dysfunction in the fallopian tubes and male partners with healthy sperm.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) includes a remarkable set of procedures that can result in a successful pregnancy. IVF includes hormone injections to stimulate ovulation and generate healthy follicles for healthy eggs. A minimally invasive procedure is performed to remove the eggs from the uterus. Next, technicians at the clinic fertilize the retrieved eggs with sperm (from an intended father or sperm donor). The fertilized egg is monitored for a few days and then transplanted into the woman's uterus. The cost of IVF is significantly higher than IUI but it has a higher rate of success and is a realistic option for individuals with several reproductive challenges.
Part of what makes IVF so effective is the information obtained regarding the specific reproductive challenges. Examples include quality of sperm, ovarian response to stimulation, quality of eggs retrieved, and how the eggs developed during fertilization. As a result, recommendations can be made to improve outcomes and increase the chance of success.
While IUI is less expensive, it is important to discuss with your doctor if you are an ideal candidate. Additionally, IVF can be attempted multiple times to result in a successful pregnancy. The best way to determine which procedure to choose is to meet with your doctor to discuss your situation.
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