While it’s always recommended to consult with a medical provider before making any treatment decisions, this article serves as a great jumping point for those looking to get pregnant using assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In it, we discuss everything you need to know about IUI and IVF.  We start things off with a high-level overview, then jump into the different types of each treatment, discuss treatment details, key decisions within each treatment, success rates, cost comparisons, risks, and who each treatment might be a good fit for.
Women are not always the source of a couple's infertility—in approximately one-third of cases, men may have difficulty with conception. In another third of cases, men are a contributing factor, along with female infertility and other problems. Men should be evaluated by a physician if there is a family history of infertility, if they have undergone cancer treatment, if they have small testicles, a swollen scrotum, or a low sperm count, or if they have any other testicular, prostate, or sexual problems.

^ Manheimer E, van der Windt D, Cheng K, Stafford K, Liu J, Tierney J, Lao L, Berman BM, Langenberg P, Bouter LM (2013). "The effects of acupuncture on rates of clinical pregnancy among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (6): 696–713. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt026. PMC 3796945. PMID 23814102.
Monitoring of egg development is usually done with E2 and LH blood hormone tests and ultrasound scans of the ovaries to determine when the egg is mature. The ultrasound allows the physician to visualize the thickness of the uterine lining and the ovaries, more specifically the number of follicles within them. The bloodwork shows the trend of pre- to post-stimulation hormone levels; increased levels of estrogen indicate follicular development.
Amongst these two patient populations (which we’ll refer to now as PCOS), IUI with clomid and letrozole generally shows no improvement versus when these drugs are taken without IUI. When IUI is coupled with gonadotropins, success rates reach 14 - 26% per cycle, which is higher than almost any other patient class, but still pales in comparison to IVF. It’s also worth noting that PCOS patients who are taking gonadotropins have a very high risk of multiples.
In some cases, laboratory mix-ups (misidentified gametes, transfer of wrong embryos) have occurred, leading to legal action against the IVF provider and complex paternity suits. An example is the case of a woman in California who received the embryo of another couple and was notified of this mistake after the birth of her son.[94] This has led to many authorities and individual clinics implementing procedures to minimise the risk of such mix-ups. The HFEA, for example, requires clinics to use a double witnessing system, the identity of specimens is checked by two people at each point at which specimens are transferred. Alternatively, technological solutions are gaining favour, to reduce the manpower cost of manual double witnessing, and to further reduce risks with uniquely numbered RFID tags which can be identified by readers connected to a computer. The computer tracks specimens throughout the process and alerts the embryologist if non-matching specimens are identified. Although the use of RFID tracking has expanded in the US,[95] it is still not widely adopted.[96]
Our specialized team of andrologists prepare each sperm sample with a procedure commonly known as "sperm washing" in one of our andrology laboratories. Sperm washing involves placing the sperm sample in a test tube and then a centrifuge, which results in the sperm collecting in a "pellet" at the bottom of the test tube. The andrologist removes the seminal fluid and places the fluid (media) above the sperm. The most active sperm will then swim up into the media. The final sample consists of the most active sperm concentrated in a small volume of media. A single IUI is usually performed when a patient is using fresh sperm. If a patient is using a frozen sperm sample, the clinician can likely perform one or two IUIs.

In the natural process of conception without treatment, a woman’s ovaries produce a mature egg each month, which leaves the ovary and travels along the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Sperm that has been deposited in the vagina through intercourse travels through the cervix through the uterus and up the fallopian tube toward the egg. Millions of sperm are lost in the cervix and do not travel to the fallopian tube. When the two meet, they join to form the early stage of an embryo which then travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus. If all goes well, it will implant in the lining of the womb and pregnancy begins.


The cost of IVF rather reflects the costliness of the underlying healthcare system than the regulatory or funding environment,[168] and ranges, on average for a standard IVF cycle and in 2006 United States dollars, between $12,500 in the United States to $4,000 in Japan.[168] In Ireland, IVF costs around €4,000, with fertility drugs, if required, costing up to €3,000.[169] The cost per live birth is highest in the United States ($41,000[168]) and United Kingdom ($40,000[168]) and lowest in Scandinavia and Japan (both around $24,500[168]).
Fertility expert Zita West has noticed this increase at her London clinic. "The main reason," she explains, "is age. Women are having babies later." Exhaustion also plays a part. "The sleeplessness of life with a small child can't be underestimated," she says. "You might still be breastfeeding, you might be sharing a bed with a toddler, you might be holding down a job at the same time. Basically, there's not a lot of sex happening." 

Nonmedicated cycle with IUI: Also known as natural cycle IUI, a non-medicated cycle with IUI is often used by single women or same-sex female couples who are not directly experiencing infertility, but rather a lack of sperm. This treatment involves tracking the development of the egg that is naturally recruited during a menstrual cycle and then introducing the donated sperm. You will come into the office for two to four monitoring appointments to track egg development and cycle timing.

If both partners are young and healthy and have been trying to conceive for one year without success, a visit to a physician or women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) could help to highlight potential medical problems earlier rather than later. The doctor or WHNP may also be able to suggest lifestyle changes to increase the chances of conceiving.[62]

Ovulation induction (in the sense of medical treatment aiming for the development of one or two ovulatory follicles) is an alternative for women with anovulation or oligoovulation, since it is less expensive and more easy to control.[7] It generally involves antiestrogens such as clomifene citrate or letrozole, and is followed by natural or artificial insemination.
Prior to the retrieval procedure, you will be given injections of a medication that ripens the developing eggs and starts the process of ovulation. Timing is important; the eggs must be retrieved just before they emerge from the follicles in the ovaries. If the eggs are taken out too early or too late, they won't develop normally. Your doctor may do blood tests or an ultrasound to be sure the eggs are at the right stage of development before retrieving them. The IVF facility will provide you with special instructions to follow the night before and the day of the procedure. Most women are given pain medication and the choice of being mildly sedated or going under full anesthesia.
The cost of IVF rather reflects the costliness of the underlying healthcare system than the regulatory or funding environment,[168] and ranges, on average for a standard IVF cycle and in 2006 United States dollars, between $12,500 in the United States to $4,000 in Japan.[168] In Ireland, IVF costs around €4,000, with fertility drugs, if required, costing up to €3,000.[169] The cost per live birth is highest in the United States ($41,000[168]) and United Kingdom ($40,000[168]) and lowest in Scandinavia and Japan (both around $24,500[168]).

A woman normally produces one egg during each menstrual cycle. However, IVF requires multiple eggs. Using multiple eggs increases the chances of developing a viable embryo. You’ll receive fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs your body produces. During this time, your doctor will perform regular blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the production of eggs and to let your doctor know when to retrieve them.


^ Manheimer E, van der Windt D, Cheng K, Stafford K, Liu J, Tierney J, Lao L, Berman BM, Langenberg P, Bouter LM (2013). "The effects of acupuncture on rates of clinical pregnancy among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (6): 696–713. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt026. PMC 3796945. PMID 23814102.
^ Tan K, An L, Miao K, Ren L, Hou Z, Tao L, Zhang Z, Wang X, Xia W, Liu J, Wang Z, Xi G, Gao S, Sui L, Zhu DS, Wang S, Wu Z, Bach I, Chen DB, Tian J (March 2016). "Impaired imprinted X chromosome inactivation is responsible for the skewed sex ratio following in vitro fertilization". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113 (12): 3197–202. Bibcode:2016PNAS..113.3197T. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523538113. PMC 4812732. PMID 26951653.
After the retrieval procedure, you'll be kept for a few hours to make sure all is well. Light spotting is common, as well as lower abdominal cramping, but most feel better in a day or so after the procedure. You'll also be told to watch for signs of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a side effect from fertility drug use during IVF treatment in 10% of patients.
Spend quality time with your child. In the midst of your infertility problems, you may feel especially upset about shifting your focus from the child you already have to the child you’re longing to have in the future. You may even feel guilty about your inability to give your little one a sibling or about the sadness you are sure is spilling over into her life. The best thing you can do for your child in this situation is to keep life as normal as possible, and ideally, find some quality time to be together. Whether it’s a chat about her day before you tuck her into bed or an afternoon romp in the park, those rituals will go a long way toward keeping your tot’s world stable and happy — even if you sometimes feel your world is spinning out of control. (You might find that focusing on your child lets you live in the moment — at least for a little while — which can help you cope with secondary infertility.) If you’re in a particularly bad place and fear that you may have a hard time handling your true emotions in front of your child (say, your pregnancy test just came up negative for the zillionth time in a row), see if you can arrange to send her to a friend’s house, or enlist your partner or mother-in-law to take over for a bit. Allowing yourself the time to compose yourself can make it much easier to face your little pride and joy with a smile.
The AMIGOS study suggested that clomid provided the best balance of a high pregnancy rate with a reasonably low multiple rate among couples with unexplained infertility. However, the authors of the Huang study concluded that on balance letrozole was better. From our vantage point, given that clomid more commonly causes multiple eggs to be ovulated, it seems like the slightly better option between the two because the whole point of treatment in unexplained infertility patients is to increase the odds of delivery by increasing the number of eggs ovulated.

Some research has found that IVF may raise the risk of some very rare birth defects, but the risk is still relatively low. Research has also found that the use of ICSI with IVF, in certain cases of male infertility, may increase the risk of infertility and some sexual birth defects for male children. This risk, however, is very low (less than 1%).

In 2006, Canadian clinics reported a live birth rate of 27%.[11] Birth rates in younger patients were slightly higher, with a success rate of 35.3% for those 21 and younger, the youngest group evaluated. Success rates for older patients were also lower and decrease with age, with 37-year-olds at 27.4% and no live births for those older than 48, the oldest group evaluated.[12] Some clinics exceeded these rates, but it is impossible to determine if that is due to superior technique or patient selection, since it is possible to artificially increase success rates by refusing to accept the most difficult patients or by steering them into oocyte donation cycles (which are compiled separately). Further, pregnancy rates can be increased by the placement of several embryos at the risk of increasing the chance for multiples.
Ovarian hyperstimulation is the stimulation to induce development of multiple follicles of the ovaries. It should start with response prediction by e.g. age, antral follicle count and level of anti-Müllerian hormone.[60] The resulting prediction of e.g. poor or hyper-response to ovarian hyperstimulation determines the protocol and dosage for ovarian hyperstimulation.[60]
In the laboratory, for ICSI treatments, the identified eggs are stripped of surrounding cells (also known as cumulus cells) and prepared for fertilisation. An oocyte selection may be performed prior to fertilisation to select eggs that can be fertilized, as it is required they are in metaphase II. There are cases in which if oocytes are in the metaphase I stage, they can be kept being cultured so as to undergo a posterior sperm injection. In the meantime, semen is prepared for fertilisation by removing inactive cells and seminal fluid in a process called sperm washing. If semen is being provided by a sperm donor, it will usually have been prepared for treatment before being frozen and quarantined, and it will be thawed ready for use.
Treating secondary infertility, like primary infertility, will depend largely on any underlying medical conditions. Through the Couples Clinic at UW Health's Generations Fertility Care, both members of the couple undergo a routine evaluation. Since infertility is not simply a woman's problem, evaluating both members ensures the most effective treatments can be recommended.  
Another major cause of infertility in women may be the inability to ovulate. Malformation of the eggs themselves may complicate conception. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome is when the eggs only partially develop within the ovary and there is an excess of male hormones. Some women are infertile because their ovaries do not mature and release eggs. In this case synthetic FSH by injection or Clomid (Clomiphene citrate) via a pill can be given to stimulate follicles to mature in the ovaries.
Ovarian hyperstimulation is the stimulation to induce development of multiple follicles of the ovaries. It should start with response prediction by e.g. age, antral follicle count and level of anti-Müllerian hormone.[60] The resulting prediction of e.g. poor or hyper-response to ovarian hyperstimulation determines the protocol and dosage for ovarian hyperstimulation.[60]
For healthy couples in their 20s or early 30s, the chance that a woman will get pregnant is about 25 to 30 percent in any single menstrual cycle. This percentage starts to decline in a woman’s early 30s. By age 40, a woman’s chance of getting pregnant drops to less than 10 percent per menstrual cycle. A man’s fertility also declines with age, but not as predictably.
Benign uterine growths are tissue enlargements of the female womb (uterus). Three types of benign uterine growths are uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, and uterine polyps. Symptoms include abdominal pressure and pain, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and pain during bowel movements. Diagnosis and treatment of benign uterine growths depends upon the type of growth.
The best study in the field enrolled 750 women to receive clomid or letrozole, followed them for 5 courses of therapy and revealed that the group receiving letrozole had higher live birth rates and fewer multiple gestations. The data is of exceptional quality, and there’s no reason to believe the conclusion doesn’t also apply to the choice of drugs if these patients proceeded on to IUI.
A review in 2013 came to the result that infants resulting from IVF (with or without ICSI) have a relative risk of birth defects of 1.32 (95% confidence interval 1.24–1.42) compared to naturally conceived infants.[48] In 2008, an analysis of the data of the National Birth Defects Study in the US found that certain birth defects were significantly more common in infants conceived through IVF, notably septal heart defects, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, esophageal atresia, and anorectal atresia; the mechanism of causality is unclear.[49] However, in a population-wide cohort study of 308,974 births (with 6,163 using assisted reproductive technology and following children from birth to age five) researchers found: "The increased risk of birth defects associated with IVF was no longer significant after adjustment for parental factors." [50] Parental factors included known independent risks for birth defects such as maternal age, smoking status, etc. Multivariate correction did not remove the significance of the association of birth defects and ICSI (corrected odds ratio 1.57), although the authors speculate that underlying male infertility factors (which would be associated with the use of ICSI) may contribute to this observation and were not able to correct for these confounders. The authors also found that a history of infertility elevated risk itself in the absence of any treatment (odds ratio 1.29), consistent with a Danish national registry study [51] and "implicates patient factors in this increased risk." The authors of the Danish national registry study speculate: "our results suggest that the reported increased prevalence of congenital malformations seen in singletons born after assisted reproductive technology is partly due to the underlying infertility or its determinants."
Many people have never heard the term "secondary infertility"; fewer understand it. I discovered it a year into my struggle to conceive a second child and fell on it, amazed. What I was undergoing had a name! I wrote it down and immediately felt better, as if the phrase exuded a talismanic power that might protect me from the likes of my neighbour.
These time intervals would seem to be reversed; this is an area where public policy trumps science. The idea is that for women beyond age 35, every month counts and if made to wait another six months to prove the necessity of medical intervention, the problem could become worse. The corollary to this is that, by definition, failure to conceive in women under 35 isn't regarded with the same urgency as it is in those over 35.
Advanced technologies add to your IVF bill but may also make a huge difference to your success rate. Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) can improve implantation rate by selectively transferring genetically normal embryos. For couples with male factor infertility, Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can help deliver a sperm directly into the egg. Nevertheless, ICSI only improves success rate in couples with severe male infertility.
For most couples having difficulty achieving a pregnancy their chance of achieving a pregnancy is not zero, it is just lower than the average rate of conception—unless both Fallopian tubes are completely blocked, there is no sperm, or the woman never ovulates. Ovulation induction (or superovulation) with IUI helps patients to achieve pregnancy rates closer to the natural per cycle chance of pregnancy for women in their age group who do not have infertility (see fig 1).
Your doctor will also monitor whether or not the treatment led to a multiple pregnancy. IVF has a higher risk of conceiving multiples, and a multiple pregnancy carries risks for both the mother and the babies. Risks of a multiple pregnancy include premature labor and delivery, maternal hemorrhage, C-section delivery, pregnancy induced high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.

A woman's age is a major factor in the success of IVF for any couple. For instance, a woman who is under age 35 and undergoes IVF has a 39.6% chance of having a baby, while a woman over age 40 has an 11.5% chance. However, the CDC recently found that the success rate is increasing in every age group as the techniques are refined and doctors become more experienced.
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