How many times should you try IUI before opting for IVF?

If you’re undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI) and haven’t yet conceived, you may be wondering how many cycles you should try before doing in vitro fertilization, also called IVF. Here’s what you should know to help you maximize your chances of becoming pregnant via these assisted reproductive treatments:

Artificial insemination illustration

What’s the difference between IUI and IVF?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often recommended for couples or women struggling with infertility. This is also a technique used by same-sex couples and single women who need donor sperm to conceive. Moreover, IUI is one of the simpler fertility treatments and doesn’t require any surgery.How IUI works: sperm (of the partner or donated) is placed into the uterus with the help of a thin catheter. The process must be performed during ovulation to maximize chances of conception. Fertility drugs might be suggested to stimulate ovulation.

The IVF procedure is more complex and involves minor surgery. During the procedure, the ovaries are first stimulated using fertility medications. Then, after the eggs have been retrieved under anesthetic, they are fertilized with sperm in a lab. Once the embryos are ready, they are transferred into the uterus.

When you should stop trying IUI and do IVF instead

IUI is often the first treatment suggested to those who want to conceive as it’s less invasive and demanding than IVF. It’s also much more affordable. But what if no pregnancy occurs after several rounds of IUI? How many times should you attempt to conceive via IUI before moving on to IVF?
This is a question that many couples and single women face when trying to become pregnant using this fertility treatment. The thing is that you will probably need to undergo several attempts before you successfully get pregnant. Although some lucky women will conceive on their first attempt, for others, pregnancy will only occur after trying a number of times.
If you are a woman under 35, most doctors will suggest 3 to 6 cycles of IUI before moving to IVF. Recommendations for those who are 35 or over are often a little different as your fertility at this age will be reduced and, therefore, your chances of conceiving via IUI might be too low. Accordingly, don’t hesitate to have a chat with your doctor to check what option is best for you and to see if you should try IVF instead.

Additionally, it’s best to talk with your practitioner and partner about the number of attempts that you’re willing to try, even before starting the first treatment. It can actually be helpful to know your limits. Some people feel that three is enough, while for others this number might be as high as 6 or even more.

What are the success rates of IUI and IVF?

To help you know when to stop IUI and move to IVF instead, it’s best to know a few stats.
Although the odds of pregnancy depend on several factors (such as age and fertility) statistically, IUI has lower success rates than IVF.

So, if you undergo IUI, you’ll be interested to know that:
- For women under 35, the probability of a successful pregnancy via this procedure is 10-20% per cycle. This is 10% between 35 and 40, and 2 to 5% at age 40 and over.
- The odds of successfully conceiving rises with the number of attempts. Therefore, you have about a 60% chance of having a baby after trying 3 times. This increases to 80% after 6 IUI cycles.
If you choose instead to try IVF with your own eggs:
- About 40% of women under the age of 35 successfully become pregnant. This is between 10 and 15% for those over 40.

Should you try IUI or IVF?

Still wondering whether you need IUI or IVF? If you recognize yourself in the following, you should try IUI:
• You have normal ovulation, or ovulation issues that can be solved via fertility medications;
• You have one or two unblocked fallopian tubes;
• You have a good ovarian reserve;
• You’re using donor sperm and don’t have serious infertility issues;
• You’re a single woman or a same-sex couple using donor sperm;
• You have a partner with ejaculation problems.
However, if you are in your late thirties or older, you should perhaps skip IUI and opt for IVF directly. Why? This is due to the fact that, after 35, a woman’s fertility gradually decreases. Be careful, you might not have the time to risk several cycles of IUI that could be unsuccessful!

In short, you should go straight to IVF if you:
• Are over the age of 38-40. IUI is more successful with younger women;
• Are using donor eggs;
• Have trouble ovulating;
• Have severe endometriosis;
• Have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, or they have been removed;
• Need intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to conceive (because the male partner has low sperm count);
• You or your partner has a genetic disorder.

If you’re considering having a baby via a fertility treatment, it’s always best to take the time to know and understand your options. Your decision will be based on your budget, your age, fertility, and preferences. The whole process may be tough, demanding and tiring. However, when you are finally holding your little one in your arms for the first time, you’ll know that it was all worth it.


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