Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is a procedure in which male infertility is addressed in an exceptionally direct manner: the sperm is placed directly into the woman’s uterus, making sperm motility problems irrelevant. The effect is to remove the factor of the sperm’s having to swim any significant distance to fertilize the egg. It’s such a straightforward act of engineering that it would be easy to imagine that nothing would supersede it.
Today, however, there is a procedure that has gained a foothold over IUI. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) isn’t exactly new, but it has long passed the stage during which it seemed more like a science experiment than a convenient, cost-effective way to boost male fertility. In IVF the egg is removed, allowing fertilization to take place in a controlled environment under the watchful eye of the fertility doctor. Upon fertilization, the embryo itself, rather than simply sperm, is introduced into the woman’s uterus.
The procedure is only moderately more invasive than IUI and offers significant advantages by having the actual fertilization take place outside the body. One of these advantages is price. IVF is typically more expensive than IUI but the controlled environment facilitates the creation of extra embryos that can be stored and used at a later time. This way, the procedure doesn’t need to be repeated each time the couple wants to attempt to have a child.
Before attempting any such procedure, it’s best to exhaust all “natural” ways to improve the chances for a successful pregnancy.
Men, in particular, should reduce their intake of tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs – including prescription drugs where possible. These substances have been shown to have impair sperm motility and sperm count. As difficult as it can be for many of us to cut out the cigarettes, weed, booze, or pills, it’s always easier to try this before scheduling a round of visits to the fertility specialist and paying several thousand dollars.
Men should look to increase their levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and reduce their levels of estrogen. Several foods, including some that are often categorized as “health foods.” These include:
- Soybeans and soybean-derived foods, including tofu and tempeh.
- Sesame seeds.
- Cruciferous vegetables.
- Wheat bran.
- Dried fruit.
- Berries, including strawberries, cranberries and raspberries.
- Wheat bran.
Many of these foods are known to be so nutritious that they might seem indispensible to your personal diet. Even the phytoestrogens they usually contain are often full of vitamins and minerals the body needs – vitamns and minerals that, considered in isolation, are actually good for reproductive health. But those phytoestrogens do enhance the production of estrogen in ways that inhibit fertility.
Beyond Diet: IUI vs IVF
Since reducing their presence in your diet is far less expensive and less invasive than any therapy, it’s worth giving it a try first. But if this isn’t enough, it’s good to know that more direct therapies are available. This is the point at which you should evaluate the respective virtues of IUI and IVF.
IUI retains several advantages. It is typically less chemically invasive, and can be performed without any medication whatsoever. Some medication, such as fertility drugs clomiphene or Gonadotropin, may be used to stimulate ovulation. Doing so increases the number of eggs, which, in turn, increases the chances for successful fertilization.
IUI can be a simple procedure, but with that simplicity comes a reduced chance of conception. At its most optimal – “optimal” meaning a young , healthy prospective mother, the use of more drugs, more visits, and more expense – the chances are a mere 20%. This is at the low end of the 20%-25% range for natural conception.
The release of more eggs into the relatively uncontrolled environment of the womb also means that there’s no way to influence the number of eggs that end up being fertilized. This means that with IUI, there is a significantly increased chance of twins, triplets, and even more multiples.
One of IVF’s advantages is precisely that its apparent disadvantages, respective to IUI, are so often mitigated by other factors. IUI can be performed without the use of fertility drugs and their occasional side effects – but only by lowering the chances of conception to well below 20%. IUI can be less expensive – but IVF often creates extra embryos for future children without having to go through treatment again, lowering cost ultimately.
Meanwhile, IVF is the procedure of choice for those who cannot be “optimal” simply because the woman who provides the eggs might be somewhat older. Further, with greater clinical control comes a reduced chance of multiples.
The great advantage of IVF is its 40% conception rate. For a growing majority of couples seeking conception, this is the factor that matters. IVF is the choice for those whose highest priority is a successful conception.