IUI found to increase pregnancy chances

IUI benefits

New research has suggested IUI could be a more cost-effective and successful fertility treatment than IVF. Known in full as Intrauterine Insemination, the study found that using this technique increases pregnancy chances after three months of trying, from 9 per cent to 31 per cent.

However, NICE advises couples who have been trying to conceive for nine months, to go straight for IVF, rather than IUI, treatment. Experts have hit out at this advice, likening it to “cracking open a nut with a sledgehammer”.

So, is NICE right in suggesting IVF first, or should more couples be looking into IUI as their first option?

Understanding IUI benefits

IUI is typically seen as the less intrusive, more natural and affordable fertility treatment. It uses a technique where sperm is placed directly into the uterus within a specific fertility window.

The prepared sperm is chosen for its motility; with a higher concentration of high-quality sperm being used for insemination. As the sperm is inserted directly into the womb, it doesn’t have as far to swim which makes it a good option for men with ‘slow swimmers’. However, what many couples don’t realise is that many women undergoing IUI treatment, are placed on medication or additional hormones, just like with IVF. Therefore, more than one egg can be released during the cycle, increasing the likelihood of having twins or triplets.

Benefits of the IVF procedure

IVF has come a long way over the years and is now a very advanced treatment. Each clinic may do it slightly differently, but typically there are six different stages involved.

First, the natural menstrual cycle is suppressed using medication via either daily injections or a nasal spray. These continue for approximately a couple of weeks before a fertility hormone is given. This helps to boost the supply of eggs and is again provided via daily injections. This second stage continues for approximately 10 to 12 days.

You will be monitored via a vaginal ultrasound scan and around 34 to 38 hours before the eggs are to be collected, a hormone injection is given to make them more mature. Once the eggs are ready to be collected, you’ll be sedated before a needle is inserted through the vagina, into the ovaries. It takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes and may lead to a little cramping or bleeding after the procedure.

The eggs are then mixed with either donor, or your partners sperm within a laboratory. They will be checked to see if any of the eggs have been fertilised after 16 to 20 hours. If they have been, they will be left to grow for up to a maximum of six days before being implanted into the womb. During this waiting period, you’ll be provided with hormone medication to help the womb prepare for the embryos.

Once ready, the embryos are inserted into the womb via a catheter passed through the vagina. It’s actually very similar to a cervical screening test. It’s worth noting, the number of embryos implanted will be determined largely by your age. After they have been successfully implanted, you’ll be required to wait for two weeks before taking a pregnancy test.

IVF vs IUI: which gives better results?

The new study claims IUI is a more cost-effective treatment option, but the truth is this isn’t always the case. Many women need to undergo up to six rounds of IUI, whereas with IVF many women go through just one to three treatments before falling pregnant.

With IUI it’s still very much down to fate in terms of which eggs will be fertilised. However, with IVF only a single embryo is typically required to be inserted in order to be successful.

The cause of infertility can also determine which treatment would be better. IUI can be better used for couples experiencing unexplained fertility issues, while IVF is better suited to those experiencing severe male infertility or recurrent miscarriages.

Overall, IVF is a lot more advanced these days. Therefore, the treatment time has been greatly reduced, while success rates have also improved. Both IUI and IVF have their own advantages and patients should discuss their situation with a fertility specialist in order to determine which course of treatment would be better suited.