Artificial Insemination vs IVF – what, why and how?

For those new to the world of fertility treatments, the medical jargon and various acronyms can be confusing. What’s more, when you’re struggling emotionally, it can feel quite overwhelming when you don’t understand the options available. In this blog, we explain the difference between artificial insemination in the UK (IUI) and IVF. We also take a look at why you’d choose one over the other, and how both artificial insemination and IVF work.

Artificial insemination

What is Artificial Insemination (IUI) and IVF?

Put simply, In IUI, specialists wash the sperm and inject it into the uterus, where it fertilises the eggs naturally. Conversely in IVF, they harvest and fertilise the eggs in the lab. This means that IUI is a less invasive procedure and involves fewer drugs than IVF.

In artificial insemination (abbreviated to AI and also called intrauterine insemination, or IUI), specialists insert the sperm directly into uterine cavity during ovulation. By being placed higher into the uterine cavity, it bypasses the cervix, making the trip through the fallopian tubes shorter. This increases the number of sperm that have a chance of meeting the egg. Fertilisation then (hopefully) occurs inside the fallopian tube.

Meanwhile, with IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), the egg and sperm meet outside the body – after harvesting, the embryologist places the egg in a petri dish, and then fertilises it with sperm. Once they have confirmed fertilisation, and the embryo is developing as expected, they transfer the embryo into the uterus on day 5 or 6, known as the blastocyst stage of embryo development.

Is IVF or artificial insemination right for me?

Artificial insemination is often one of the first steps in fertility treatment. Specialists use this technique to help women who have been unable to get pregnant after a period of trying. For women, irregular periods or ovulatory disorders may indicate a need for artificial insemination. Single women or same-sex couples may opt for artificial insemination with donor sperm. Artificial insemination is less invasive and less expensive than IVF, but the success rates are better with IVF.

Meanwhile, a fertility specialist may recommend IVF to women with fertility issues such as blocked fallopian tubes, ovulation disorders, reduced ovarian reserve or endometriosis. Additionally, they might consider IVF if artificial insemination has not been successful.

For male fertility problems (slow-moving sperm, low sperm count or abnormally shaped sperm), there are other options. Your consultant may recommend another treatment known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). In ICSI, specifically selected sperm is injected directly into an egg.

Answer your questions with a free nurse consultation

To discuss your individual circumstances and which treatment is right for you, book a free 30-minute consultation with our fertility nurse. You can ask any questions you like, they don’t have to be about our programmes or artificial insemination. We promise not to baffle you with acronyms!

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Call Access Fertility for a free no obligations chat to discuss your options.