IUI vs. IVF: What’s the Difference?

By Willow Breckenridge | Jul 21, 2021

Family planning is an individual journey, no matter who you are or what your family looks like. Whether you already have children, you’re embarking on your very first baby with a partner or you’re considering surrogacy or another form of family planning involvement, you may already be aware of the plethora of options and methods available for those planning to be mothers — or helping someone else become a mother.

While you might already have some idea of the mechanics behind IUI and IVF, you might not know exactly what either means, or what the difference is between them. And that’s completely okay! The reason why there are so many comprehensive options for family planning is because everyone’s needs are different. While there are even more options than IUI and IVF, the two are often confused with one another and are used for similar reasons. If you’re curious about the differences — and some of the similarities — between IUI and IVF, here’s what you need to know.

Why Use IUI or IVF?

One of the first things you should know about IUI and IVF is the reason why many planning parents select these routes in the first place. Of course, the purpose of fertility treatments is to eventually result in pregnancy, but the use of those fertility treatments can be for a variety of reasons. Many planning parents use IUI and IVF for fertility challenges or in the event of a single pregnancy such as sperm donation or surrogacy. Usually in these situations, IUI is the first option, as it’s often considered to be a bit less invasive and less expensive than IVF.

What Is IUI?

Since IUI is often the first option in family planning, we can define it first. IUI stands for intrauterine insemination. The process of IUI involves the intentional insertion of sperm into the cervix or uterine cavity. This process doesn’t involve removing the egg or inseminating externally. However, the chances of becoming pregnant can be increased through IUI due to increased precision and higher placement in the uterine cavity. Often, IUI is the first line of defense when facing fertility challenges such as endometriosis, or when using a sperm donor.

What Is IVF?

IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, which — unlike IUI — involves removing the egg and fertilizing it externally and beginning the pregnancy that way. When it comes to treating infertility, this is often the next step after IUI, however, it’s also an option for single parents who are using a surrogate, couples where the mother can conceive but not carry and other situations in which the carrier of the pregnancy isn’t the biological mother. While this option is slightly less natural, it’s a great choice for many planning parents.

How Are They Similar?

One of the reason why many people find confusion with IUI and IVF is because they are relatively similar procedures in plenty of ways. They can both be options for single parents as well as couples, they both include medical involvement and they can both be used to treat infertility and various fertility challenges. 

What Are the Differences?

Based on the definitions, you already know that the main difference between IUI and IVF is that the former involves internal insemination while the latter involves external fertilization. IUI is slightly more natural and less expensive, but IVF allows the pregnancy carrier to be different from the biological mother. When it comes to success rates, there are many factors at play. However, most sources place IUI at around 15-20% and IVF around 50-60% for ideal candidates. While there are no guarantees, you can always try both methods if one isn’t working as well for you. If you have specific questions, always contact your doctor or fertility specialist to talk through your options.

What Makes You a Candidate?

While everyone is different and you should always converse with your doctor and fertility specialist about your specific situation, some important things to think about are whether you’re producing healthy eggs — a key component for IUI — and whether you can carry a pregnancy to term. Other things to consider are whether you’re at a healthy reproducing age, whether you’re financially prepared and whether your partner is experiencing fertility challenges, too. In order to find out if you’re a candidate, consult with your doctor and think over your options.


There are so many options when it comes to family planning. Whether you’re experiencing fertility challenges, planning your family solo or helping out a friend, IUI and IVF are great options to learn about. If you’re curious to learn more, contact your doctor and ask about how to get started in planning or expanding your family.

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