Sometimes problems getting pregnant for a second or subsequent time are related to a complication that occurred in a prior pregnancy or prior to delivery (damage to the uterus, for instance). But most often, secondary infertility is caused by the same factors that would cause primary infertility — issues like advanced age, obesity, ovulation problems and so on.

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.


^ Sher, KS; Jayanthi, V; Probert, CS; Stewart, CR; Mayberry, JF (1994). "Infertility, obstetric and gynaecological problems in coeliac sprue". Dig Dis. 12 (3): 186–90. doi:10.1159/000171452. PMID 7988065. There is now substantial evidence that coeliac sprue is associated with infertility both in men and women. (...) In men it can cause hypogonadism, immature secondary sex characteristics and reduce semen quality. (...) Hyperprolactinaemia is seen in 25% of coeliac patients, which causes impotence and loss of libido. Gluten withdrawal and correction of deficient dietary elements can lead to a return of fertility both in men and women.
Artificial insemination, including intracervical insemination and intrauterine insemination of semen. It requires that a woman ovulates, but is a relatively simple procedure, and can be used in the home for self-insemination without medical practitioner assistance.[171] The beneficiaries of artificial insemination are women who desire to give birth to their own child who may be single, women who are in a lesbian relationship or women who are in a heterosexual relationship but with a male partner who is infertile or who has a physical impairment which prevents full intercourse from taking place.
Along with being physically demanding, fertility treatments can also spark a roller-coaster of emotions each month, including hope, anger, disappointment, sadness, and guilt. Just the sight of a pregnant woman can evoke strong negative and stressful feelings. During this time, those struggling with infertility may pull away from friends and family who remind them of their difficulty with reproduction; some of their closest relationships may suffer.
For women, intake of antioxidants (such as N-acetyl-cysteine, melatonin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, myo-inositol, zinc or selenium) has not been associated with a significantly increased live birth rate or clinical pregnancy rate in IVF according to Cochrane reviews.[30] The review found that oral antioxidants given to men in couples with male factor or unexplained subfertility may improve live birth rates, but more evidence is needed.[30]
This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.

Studies have indicated that IVF mothers show greater emotional involvement with their child, and they enjoy motherhood more than mothers by natural conception. Similarly, studies have indicated that IVF father's express more warmth and emotional involvement than fathers by adoption and natural conception and enjoy fatherhood more. Some IVF parents become overly involved with their children.[136]


Treatment with Clomid tablets plus IUI improves fertility rates. For unexplained infertility, studies have shown that for women under 35, monthly success rates for Clomid plus insemination are about 10% per cycle. This pregnancy rate holds up for about 3 tries and the success rate is considerably lower after that. More about success rates with IUIs is on the insemination page and on the Clomid for unexplained infertility page. The insemination component boosts fertility more than the Clomid does - but success rates are higher when both are used together.
Our physicians generally perform IUIs 1 and a 1/2 days after the trigger injection, which sets ovulation in motion. The exact timing of insemination is not critical to the exact time of ovulation. Both the sperm and the egg remain viable in the female genital tract for many hours, so the physician may time the insemination within a window of several hours around the time of ovulation. Following the IUI, you will take daily supplemental progesterone—usually in the form of a capsule inserted into your vagina twice a day—to support the endometrial lining of the uterus and implantation of the embryo.
Once the medications take their effect, your doctor will use a transvaginal ultrasound to guide a needle through the back wall of your vagina, up to your ovaries. She will then use the needle to aspirate the follicle, or gently suck the fluid and oocyte from the follicle into the needle. There is one oocyte per follicle. These oocytes will be transferred to the embryology lab for fertilization.
When transferring more than one embryo, the risk of pregnancy and newborn complications also increases.1 Among IVF babies, twins are 12 times more likely than singletons to be delivered prematurely, 16 times more likely to be underweight and 5 times more likely to suffer from respiratory complications. Among IVF mothers, mothers of twins are 2.5 times more likely to have pre-eclampsia, over 8 times more likely to have premature preterm rupture of membranes and 4 times more likely to require a Caesarean section.
The cost of an IUI is almost certainly less on a per cycle basis, but because IVF has much higher success rates and IUI is a poor option for some, the higher per cycle cost of IVF can actually be more affordable in the long run – in terms of the cost to bring home a baby.  Because most successful IUIs happen in the first three or four-cycle, it eventually becomes very expensive to bring home a baby with an IUI.
Ovary stimulation. For eight to 14 days near the beginning of your menstrual cycle, you take a gonadotropin, a type of fertility drug that stimulates your ovaries to develop multiple mature eggs for fertilization (instead of just one). You also need to take a synthetic hormone like leuprolide or cetrorelix to keep your body from releasing the eggs too early.
Heavy, as in a pad and a tampon still doesn’t feel like enough. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or kidney disease, can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulants) may as well; or the reason may be a condition linked to infertility. In a normal menstrual cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus—that’s the stuff that sheds during your period. But if, for example, your ovaries don’t release an egg, the dominoes are tipped: your body produces less progesterone, hormones become imbalanced, the lining in your uterus over-develops, and you end up bleeding extra heavily. Fibroids in your uterus can also cause heavier or longer-than-normal periods; some types of these benign tumors can block fallopian tubes or interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Up to 10 percent of infertile women have fibroids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you soak through at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours, see your doctor.  This is the worst health advice gynecologists have ever heard.
In the well-established fertility treatment of IVF, unlike IUI, the meeting of sperm and egg takes place outside the body, in the laboratory (in vitro). This gives fertility practitioners a lot more control over the selection of a genetically normal embryo that has the best chance of establishing a successful pregnancy. IVF is the fertility treatment with the highest likelihood of taking home a healthy baby. These are the stages involved in IVF:
Risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS can happen when women respond too well to fertility drugs and produce too many eggs. About 10 to 20 percent of women who take gonadotropins develop a mild form of OHSS, a condition marked by weight gain and a full, bloated feeling. Some also have shortness of breath, dizziness, pelvic pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you have OHSS, your ovaries swell to several times the normal size and produce fluid that accumulates in your abdominal cavity. Normally this resolves itself with careful monitoring by a physician and bed rest. But in rare cases it's life threatening, and you may have to be hospitalized for more intensive monitoring or treatment.

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 major complication of IVF is the risk of multiple births. This is directly related to the practice of transferring multiple embryos at embryo transfer. Multiple births are related to increased risk of pregnancy loss, obstetrical complications, prematurity, and neonatal morbidity with the potential for long term damage. Strict limits on the number of embryos that may be transferred have been enacted in some countries (e.g. Britain, Belgium) to reduce the risk of high-order multiples (triplets or more), but are not universally followed or accepted. Spontaneous splitting of embryos in the womb after transfer can occur, but this is rare and would lead to identical twins. A double blind, randomised study followed IVF pregnancies that resulted in 73 infants (33 boys and 40 girls) and reported that 8.7% of singleton infants and 54.2% of twins had a birth weight of less than 2,500 grams (5.5 lb).[35]
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.
A body mass index (BMI) over 27 causes a 33% decrease in likelihood to have a live birth after the first cycle of IVF, compared to those with a BMI between 20 and 27.[29] Also, pregnant women who are obese have higher rates of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, hypertension, thromboembolism and problems during delivery, as well as leading to an increased risk of fetal congenital abnormality.[29] Ideal body mass index is 19–30.[17]
Antisperm antibodies (ASA) have been considered as infertility cause in around 10–30% of infertile couples.[23] In both men and women, ASA production are directed against surface antigens on sperm, which can interfere with sperm motility and transport through the female reproductive tract, inhibiting capacitation and acrosome reaction, impaired fertilization, influence on the implantation process, and impaired growth and development of the embryo. The antibodies are classified into different groups: There are IgA, IgG and IgM antibodies. They also differ in the location of the spermatozoon they bind on (head, mid piece, tail). Factors contributing to the formation of antisperm antibodies in women are disturbance of normal immunoregulatory mechanisms, infection, violation of the integrity of the mucous membranes, rape and unprotected oral or anal sex. Risk factors for the formation of antisperm antibodies in men include the breakdown of the blood‑testis barrier, trauma and surgery, orchitis, varicocele, infections, prostatitis, testicular cancer, failure of immunosuppression and unprotected receptive anal or oral sex with men.[23][24]
Secondary infertility can be traced to either partner or both partners. About one-third of cases originate in women and about one-third originate in men. In the remaining one-third, the cause is due to a combination of factors or isn’t known. Increased age, complications from a prior pregnancy or surgery, increased weight, medications, sexually transmitted diseases, impaired sperm production, alcohol abuse, and smoking are all examples of secondary infertility in women and men.
Ovarian stimulation with hormonal medication is performed over a period of around 10-14 days. During this time, progress is monitored through ultrasound scans and blood tests. When enough oocytes (eggs) have developed in the ovaries, a final hormone injection triggers the maturing of the oocytes. Thirty-six hours later, egg retrieval is scheduled to take place in the fertility clinic.
Risk of ectopic pregnancy. Women who have difficulty getting pregnant have an increased risk for ectopic pregnancy, regardless of how they conceive. And all assisted reproductive technology treatments, including IVF, also make an ectopic pregnancy more likely. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants in a fallopian tube or the abdominal cavity rather than in the uterus. It's treated with the medication methotrexate or by surgically removing the embryo to prevent it from severely injuring the mother by continuing to grow.
Post transfer – You’ll likely take progesterone and estrogen to improve implantation and pregnancy rates. If the transfer is successful, a blood pregnancy test will be positive in 10-14 days. From there, ultrasounds are used to ensure the implantation site as well as check for a heartbeat. The good news is that once a heartbeat is detected, the pregnancy has a 90-95% probability of the pregnancy resulting in a live birth.
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