Which fertility treatment is most likely to help you have a baby? With so many different types of procedures and techniques available, it can be confusing to understand which may work for you.
But actually there is only a small number of key fertility treatment techniques that are used by clinics: IVF,ICSI or IUI. Each has a different way of joining sperm and eggs together – including donor sperm and donor eggs - to achieve pregnancy.
Here’s your quick snapshot guide about what each of the treatments involve, why each may be advised and what the benefits are:
IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation)
What is IVF?
What does IVF involve?
The ovaries are stimulated to produce mature eggs, through a tailored fertility drug protocol bespoke to you that focuses on the quality, not quantity, of eggs.
The eggs are gently retrieved in theatre and fertilised straight away with sperm in a special dish in our laboratory. Over the next few hours, the eggs are monitored for signs of fertilisation.
Fertilised eggs become embryos, which grow and develop in our highly-controlled incubators for a number of days. The best quality embryo is selected and transferred back into the uterus in our clinic theatre. You’ll be able to take a pregnancy test around two weeks later.
When is IVF used?
IVF is used to overcome problems with sperm reaching the egg naturally. Such as blocked fallopian tubes or scarring, or for some mild cases of male infertility. IVF is also used for treatment with donor eggs or donor sperm.
What are the benefits of IVF?
Because conception happens in our laboratory, many issues that would prevent natural conception can be bypassed, ensuring a couple can still try for a baby using their own eggs and sperm. It can also be used to help same-sex couples and single women to conceive using donor sperm.
ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection)
What is ICSI?
ICSI – or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection – is a refinement of IVF, where a single healthy sperm is injected into the egg.
What does ICSI involve?
The ICSI treatment procedure is exactly the same as IVF, except that instead of the sperm and eggs being mixed together, a single healthy sperm is identified from a sample and carefully injected directly into the egg to fertilise it.
When would ICSI be used?
ICSI is a main treatment for male infertility, when sperm count is low, the sperm isn’t as motile as it should be or sperm has higher levels of DNA damage. ICSI may also be used to fertilise eggs that have previously been frozen, donor eggs or used when sperm has been retrieved surgically through specialised Surgical Sperm Retrieval (SSR) procedures.
What are the benefits of ICSI?
As ICSI directly fertilises the egg, any issues with sperm movement or number can be overcome, giving infertile men the chance to become fathers using their own sperm. Fertilisation rates are also typically higher than IVF.
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)
What is IUI?
Intrauterine Insemination is a simple procedure that involves inserting prepared sperm into the uterus to encourage fertilisation.
What does IUI involve?
Insemination is timed precisely for when you’re ovulating and takes place in our clinic theatre. For IUI to be successful there must be no issues with sperm or blockages that would prevent pregnancy. IUI is commonly used with donor sperm by same-sex couples and single women, or couples with unexplained infertility.
What are the benefits of IUI?
IUI is a fertility treatment that’s as close to natural conception as you can get.
When you have IUI you don’t need to use any fertility drugs, however if you have ovulation issues, IUI can be used in conjunction with fertility drugs to ensure there’s a mature egg to fertilise at the right time.
It’s a quicker procedure than IVF, but its success rates are generally aligned with natural conception rates per cycle and are therefore lower. It’s not unusual to need a course of IUI for it to be successful, just as you may need to try for a few months to get pregnant naturally.
What about alternative, ‘milder’ forms of IVF?
Many clinics are now promoting ‘Natural IVF’ which relies solely on the single egg you produce each month for fertilisation. We do not offer Natural IVF at Manchester Fertility due to its very low success rates. Instead we offer a Modified approach, which is only advised in very specific circumstances.
It’s the same process as conventional IVF, but uses a modified drugs protocol, where very low doses are used with the aim of producing more than one good egg to fertilise. Modified IVF may be advised if your AMH level is low, and therefore traditional stimulation wouldn’t result in higher numbers of eggs.
Finding the right fertility treatment for you
You’ll be supported by our entire clinic team throughout your journey, including our compassionate and caring fertility nurses, who we’re celebrating this week for International Nurses Day (Fri 12 May).
Last updated: 12th January 2021