Infertility affects over 6 million people in the United States. With 12% of the adult population impacted by infertility, it's no surprise that the US fertility market now tops 3.5 billion dollars. Nearly 2 billion of that total is spent on in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is a process in which an egg and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory, and the resulting embryo is implanted into the uterus of a woman.
While IVF therapy is relatively successful, especially for younger women, it is incredibly expensive, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting.
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A new study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand shows that intrauterine insemination (IUI) increases a woman's chance of having a successful pregnancy by 22%.
IUI, also referred to as the "turkey basting method," is a process by which sperm are washed and then inserted via a thin tube into the uterus of a woman. In some instances, medications are given to increase the number of eggs released. While once a popular method, it has fallen by the wayside to IVF.
Researchers followed 201 couples actively trying to conceive. They compared three rounds of IUI combined with ovulation medications to three months of trying to conceive naturally. The study found that IUI increased the live birth rate from 9% to 31% in couples who had previously experienced infertility for up to four years. The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
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This study is not the first study of its kind. In fact, Daily Mail reports that a separate, but larger, study from a fertility clinic in the Netherlands had similar results. Upon analyzing 602 couples, the study concluded that after six rounds of treatment, IUI had similar results to drug-free IVF.
The recommendations regarding fertility treatment are not clear. Ben Cohlen, a researcher from the Fertility Clinic Isala, said, "For unexplained or mild male infertility, I would do at least three cycles of IUI before trying IVF." This message conflicts with the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which recommends that couples with unexplained infertility for a year bypass IUI and move directly to IVF.
Regardless of the conflicting expert opinions, IUI is much more affordable, less invasive, and presumably equally effective as IVF.