You may be asking yourself, "Why would anyone choose to go through IUI or IVF if they are fertile and can conceive on their own without medical intervention?"
But the truth is, although in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are commonly used to help individuals and couples who are unable to conceive "naturally," you don't have to be infertile to benefit from them. In fact, there are many reasons why couples who can get pregnant unassisted may need IUI or IVF to help them grow their families. Now let's take a look at some of these scenarios.
Why fertile individuals or couples may decide to pursue IVF
Science is amazing, and IVF offers a way for individuals and couples to preserve their fertility in the event that they want to delay having kids.
“Fertile couples may seek IVF for fertility preservation purposes. Even if they want to become pregnant now, IVF may allow for freezing of additional embryos for future pregnancies as well, which is appealing to older individuals or those with lower ovarian reserve,” explains Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist Dr. Jessica Ryniec.
IVF to avoid chromosomal abnormalities
For others who may be able to conceive on their own, the problem isn't getting pregnant — it's staying pregnant. Recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as the occurrence of two or more spontaneous miscarriages, and it can be caused by issues with the embryo, including aneuploidy (an abnormal number of chromosomes), a balanced translocation, or a single chromosomal mutation, to name a few.
If you are experiencing recurrent miscarriages, one of the first steps your doctor may suggest is to have a genetic carrier screening or karyotype screening done. Genetic carrier screening is a DNA blood test that determines whether you or your partner are carriers of certain genetic conditions that you could potentially pass on to your child(ren). Karyotype testing, sometimes referred to as chromosome analysis, is a type of blood testing that looks at the size, shape, and number of your chromosomes to see if anything about them is unusual.
To bypass embryo issues that can lead to pregnancy loss, IVF might be your best option for a successful, full-term pregnancy. With IVF, your fertility team or OB/GYN can recommend further genetic testing, known as preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). PGT helps fertility specialists choose the most promising embryos for transfer, avoiding embryos with known genetic issues that may result in miscarriage or genetic disorders.
When IUI may be the best option
For women who may be interested in becoming independent parents or same-sex female couples using donor sperm, IUI may be the best option for conception. However, it's important to consider all factors, including age, success rates, and how many children you'd ideally like to have before moving forward.
“Seeking fertility treatments even if a woman is fertile is more common with IVF than with IUI because there may not be a benefit to IUI compared with timed intercourse for those without infertility,” explains Dr. Ryniec.
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Still, women with no prior fertility issues are excellent candidates for IUI and may even be able to complete the cycle without ovulation induction medication if their menstrual and ovulation cycles are regular.
“People who may seek out IUI without known fertility issues would include LGBTQ+ couples, people who want to become a single parent by choice, those that are using donor sperm for other reasons, or those who have difficulty with penetrative intercourse or whose partners may be frequent travelers and not around during the fertile window,” Dr. Ryniec says.
In the case of a male partner who may be traveling or on active military duty, it's possible for the sperm to be frozen ahead of time and thawed on the day of the IUI procedure in order to avoid a delayed or canceled cycle.
While IUI and IVF are responsible for helping countless infertile individuals and couples grow their families, it's important to recognize the entire category of people who may choose to pursue assisted reproductive technology for other reasons. Whether you're seeking parenthood without a partner, hoping to avoid passing on a genetic condition to your future child, or looking to lower your chances of miscarriage, fertility treatments provide the opportunity to choose exactly how and when you want to become a parent, and that is a beautiful thing.