When weighing the options, the pros and cons of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) will, of course, be explored fully in discussion with your physician. In general terms, you can expect IUI to be a simpler process, less invasive, and lower cost. Some fertility specialists recommend attempting one or more cycles of artificial insemination before moving to IVF but this does not apply to everyone. For example, for an older woman, to try artificial insemination first may take up valuable time and the recommendation could well be to move straight to IVF. But before you can compare the two treatments, you need to know what exactly you could expect from IVF.
Problems with your periods or menstrual cycle is a sign of ovulation problems – and if you aren’t ovulating, you won’t get pregnant. Menstrual problems are the most obvious sign of infertility in women – but they don’t necessarily mean you’re infertile. Most women have some type of problem with their period: light flow, heavy flow, clotting, irregularity caused by stress or weight fluctuations, hormonal changes, etc.
West states that the "hardest thing about secondary fertility issues is that you want a sibling for your child." Fiona, who has a son of five and has been trying to conceive a second child for two years, says she can no longer look out of the window at her son playing in the garden. "It breaks my heart. He just looks so alone out there. All I want is a sibling for him but I don't think it's going to happen."
Men will need to have sperm testing. This involves giving a semen sample, which a lab will analyze for the number, size, and shape of the sperm. If the sperm are weak or damaged, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be necessary. During ICSI, a technician injects sperm directly into the egg. ICSI can be part of the IVF process.
Success rates for IVF depend on a number of factors, including the reason for infertility, where you're having the procedure done, and your age. The CDC compiles national statistics for all assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures performed in the U.S., including IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT, although IVF is by far the most common; it accounts for 99% of the procedures. The most recent report from 2016 found:
From the patient experience perspective, IVF is a more time-consuming process overall, although the length of time before pregnancy is achieved varies greatly according to how many cycles are necessary. However, because IVF is a more direct and effective route to pregnancy than IUI, it is often a less time-consuming process. For example, a patient could spend many months trying to succeed at IUI, only to succeed during the first cycle of IVF. While many patients opt for IUI at the start of their fertility journey because it is less invasive and more affordable, success rates for IVF are considerably higher.
As a result, most patients need to undergo multiple cycles, and as we pointed out in a another lesson, no cycle is as likely to succeed as the first one. Below is data out of the UK published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that illustrates that after a few cycles most younger patients succeed with IVF but that is not necessarily true for older patients.
There is a risk of multiples, which includes twins, triplets, or more. Multiple pregnancies can be risky for both the babies and the mother. It's important to discuss with your doctor how many embryos to transfer, as transferring more than necessary will increase your risk of conceiving twins or more. When embryos have been tested with PGT, typically only a single embryo is transferred.
Deciding whether to undergo in vitro fertilization, and how to try if the first attempt is unsuccessful, is an incredibly complicated decision. The financial, physical, and emotional toll of this process can be difficult. Speak with your doctor extensively to determine what your best options are and if in vitro fertilization is the right path for you and your family. Seek a support group or counselor to help you and your partner through this process.
Repeated failed rounds of IVF can help identify causes of infertility. For example, if sperm and egg quality are normal, then the conception issue may be rooted at the embryonic or implantation level. In other words, if IVF fails to result in pregnancy despite successful fertilization, embryonic development or implantation may be to blame. Still this is a very expensive way to start getting answers.