Is IUI a Successful Fertility Treatment?

Common recos for women over 40

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

The reported success rates for intrauterine insemination (IUI) vary widely between studies. There are many factors that influence an individual's chances of success, from their age to the type of IUI they undergo.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the rate of pregnancy for people who try IUI is double what it would be if no treatment was attempted.

While overall statistics can give you a baseline for your expectations, your personal odds for IUI success will depend on several factors, including your age, the cause of your infertility, and how long you've been trying to conceive.

Fertility Medications

The rates of IUI success are different when fertility drugs are used compared to cycles that are done without fertility drugs. The type of drug that is used can also affect the rate of success.

For example, research has indicated that IUI cycles with certain drugs—such as Clomid and letrozole—tend to be less successful than cycles with gonadotropins (like Gonal-F and Follistim).

Age

Age is another factor for IUI success. Research has shown that, in general, the rates of IUI success are lower for people older than 40.

One study analyzed 2,019 IUI cycles to see whether age affects IUI success rates. The researchers reported both pregnancy rates and delivery rates (which are naturally lower because of pregnancy loss.)

Age Pregnancy Rate Delivery Rate
20 to 30 17.6% 13%
31 to 35 13.3% 10%
36 to 38 13.4% 9%
39 to 40 10.6% 7%
Over 40 5.4% 3%

Fertility Factors

There are infertility factors related to different reproductive organs that can influence IUI and IVF success rates. Two examples are problems with sperm or the cervix (or, in some cases, both).

IUI with fertility drugs can be successful in some cases of mild male infertility but is not usually helpful when there are severe problems with the number or shape of the sperm. IVF treatment might be a better choice in these cases.

It can also be a good choice when a sperm donor is used (especially when there are no (or mild) female infertility factors, and the female partner is younger than 35 years old).

For partners who have a cervix, it's been theorized that some cases of unexplained infertility are caused by issues with the cervix, which can include hostile cervical mucus. If a person does not ovulate (release an egg), IUI can also be helpful.

How Many IUI Cycles Should You Try?

Some research has shown that the odds for IUI success are higher for couples who have been trying to get pregnant for less than four years. Couples who have tried for longer tend to have less IUI success, and the rates continue to decrease with time.

Many fertility specialists recommend moving straight to IVF if you are over the age of 40 because the rates of IUI are low in this age group.

If you are under the age of 40, the recommendation is to complete three cycles of IUI before trying IVF treatment. If you are over the age of 40, your provider might suggest that you only try one IUI cycle—if any. If that cycle fails, it would be recommended that you try IVF.

Your provider might recommend going straight to IVF treatment if you are age 35 or older and have a condition such as endometriosis that is known to affect fertility but does not typically respond to IUI treatment.

Considering the Cost

IUI is typically less expensive than IVF, and the lower cost is part of what makes IUI a popular choice for many people. However, when you consider your chances for success, going straight to IVF might be a better financial decision.

According to Planned Parenthood, IUI can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per cycle (without insurance).

IVF can cost upwards of $10,000 to $15,000 per cycle, which does not necessarily include the cost of fertility drugs (which can be $1,000 to $3,000).

You could also consider micro-IVF or "mini IVF", which is like conventional IVF but uses lower dosages of drugs. Mini IVF has lower success rates than traditional IVF, but it costs less and the success rates are still higher than IUI. Some research has shown that mini IVF might work especially well for people over the age of 40.

A Word From Verywell

The success rates for assisted fertility treatments, including IUI and IVF, very considerably. While the overall rates can give you a broad sense of how well a particular treatment could work, there are many factors that determine success rates for IUI.

Your age, the cause of infertility, your partner's fertility, and whether fertility drugs are used during your IUI cycle are a few of the factors to consider. In some cases, IUI would not be recommended and instead, your provider might suggest you go directly to IVF.

You might also need to think about the cost of IUI and IVF. Multiple attempts at IUI that are not successful can be a similar financial investment to a single round of IVF—which might have a higher chance of success, depending on your situation.

Age is also an important consideration. You should not wait to talk to your provider about IUI or IVF if you are over the age of 35, and especially if you are older than 40. Your provider might suggest you try to get pregnant without assistance for several months, or they might not want you to wait.

IUI and IVF are more likely to help you get pregnant if you start them as soon as possible. If you're having trouble conceiving, don't wait to ask your provider about fertility testing.

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