Hi! First off I want to apologize for taking some time off from writing for this blog. Life had gotten a little hectic and I couldn’t find enough time to sit down and work on this site. I am happy to say that things have calmed down a bit, and I have started working on a series of new posts! It’s super exciting to be getting some momentum going again on this project :)
Today I wanted to talk a little about IUI, or intra-uterine insemination, treatments. IUI is a great first treatment option for many couples. It is relatively non invasive and much cheaper than IVF. It is often recommended for women or couples who have:
- ovulation issues
- are unable to properly time intercourse, / sexual dysfunction
- mild male factor
- unexplained fertility
- or for women using donor sperm
An IUI is a type of artificial insemination. Basically, instead of having the male inseminate the female naturally via sexual intercourse, a medical professional uses a tiny catheter to inject a small amount of prepared sperm directly into the woman’s uterus. This procedure is timed to occur right around when ovulation (when a female is most fertile) occurs, and can be done either naturally or accompanied by fertility drugs. The idea is to coordinate the whole operation so that the sperm and the egg can meet in a favorable environment at the proper time for fertilization to occur.
The IUI process can increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant over practicing timed intercourse and can be a successful treatment for many of the disorders listed above. The procedure is relatively simple, and, as such, does not cost much compared to an IVF cycle. The cost can vary depending on the complexity of the monitoring and if fertility medications are used. I will list out the main varieties in order of ascending costs.
The cheapest, and often least successful are natural IUI cycles where ovulation is determined through the use a combination of a best guess based on cycle lengths, temperature readings, and maybe ovulation kits to confirm ovulation. No fertility medications are used. These are less successful then the more monitored counterparts, as more is being left unknown throughout the process.
Next up would be natural cycles with monitoring. These are IUI cycles without any medication but with a clinic monitoring the woman’s cycle to more accurately determine the optimum time for the insemination to occur. The amount and type of monitoring can vary depending on the fertility clinic. Clinic monitoring can be very important as proper timing is very important to IUI success.
Medicated cycles with or without monitoring are the most expensive variant, but also the most successful. These cycles use fertility drugs to increase the chances that a healthy egg will be ovulated. The amount of monitoring can vary depending on the clinic you go to, but most often they will have you come in for one or more blood draws and ultrasounds to precisely determine when ovulation occurs. Sometimes ovulation is even triggered through the use of other medications.
Regardless of the type of IUI cycle that is recommended by your doctor it is probable that you will need more than one cycle to be successful. If you are looking into, or about to start an IUI treatment cycle I sincerely hope you will get pregnant on the first round, but the odds are against you. It has been said that the odds of any given IUI cycle to succeed are around 20-30% for a young healthy couple. Depending on the severity of the issues affecting you or your partner those odds will be go down.
Since the cost disparity between a round of IUI and an IVF cycle is so pronounced many couples will want to pursue a couple IUI cycles before moving on to IVF. Sometimes against the recommendations of their physicians who understand that the chances for success with IUIs will be very low for that patient. I certainly can’t blame a patient for trying an IUI or two even when the odds are stacked against them. However, that money is more often than not just thrown away with unsuccessful cycles before the patient ultimately ends up pursuing IVF.
That doesn’t have to happen! The other day I came across a fertility clinic in Seattle that addresses this issue with two separate programs designed to make the whole decision process much easier for patients. One program is for patients who have a good chance succeeding though IUI treatment, but will likely need more than one cycle to achieve a healthy pregnancy. They call the program an IUI Discount Program, and it basically allow a patient to get a third IUI cycle free, if they prepay for the first two. The best part is that they will refund the patient the second cycle if the first one is successful. They also give an option for patients to go through the program again at a slightly higher rate.
Their next program is called an IUI Credit Program. This one is my favorite of the two as it allows patients to first try a couple IUI cycles, and if those are not successful, apply the money they have already spent against the cost of an IVF cycle. This gives patients the ability to first try the low cost option, before having to commit to an IVF cycle.
Both these programs are innovative and among some of the best I have seen. They give patients the ability to reduce their financial burden as they pursue lower cost fertility treatments before jumping into the much more expensive options. I just wish more fertility clinics would offer programs such as these as they have the potential to really benefit the patient.