IUI vs ICI vs IVF: what are the costs & success rates in the UK

Pregnant woman holding stomach photo

Whether you've been trying for a long period of time and have not yet managed to conceive, or you are concerned that you might be unable to get pregnant for other reasons, you are likely to be aware that there are a number of fertility treatments available. However you might not realise that there are a number of different artificial insemination methods available which can be of benefit to a wide range of people, including people who desire to give birth to their own child who may be single, women who are in a lesbian relationship or women who are in a heterosexual relationship with a male partner who is unable to inseminate through sexual intercourse.

What are the main methods of Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination refers to the intentional introduction of sperm into a female's cervix or uterine cavity with the objective of achieving a pregnancy through in vivo fertilisation, and covers any method of achieving this other than sexual intercourse or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

The two most commonly available Artificial Insemination techniques available are:

  • Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

Intracervical insemination (ICI) mimics the ejaculation of semen by the penis into the vagina during intercourse. It is painless and is the simplest, easiest and most common method of artificial insemination. ICI involves the introduction of unwashed or raw semen into the vagina at the entrance to the cervix, usually through the use of a special type of syringe.

ICI is commonly used in the home using raw sperm. It is a popular method amongst single and lesbian women as well as heterosexual couples who wish to explore other means of conceiving.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves injection of sperm which has been specially washed to isolate only the active sperm, directly into the uterus with a catheter. If unwashed semen is used, it may cause infections and complications as IUI is a more complex process which should not be attempted at home and should be completed at a licensed medical facility.

How do ICI, IUI & IVF compare with each other?

Intracervical insemination (ICI), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) are all intended to help people conceive.

However, it should be noted IUI and IVF are medical procedures which must be carried out in a controlled environment by a qualified doctor or fertility clinic. ICI is a more accessible process which people can, with the correct equipment, carry out at home, using a home insemination kit such as Eive Kits.

ICI and IUI both involve the addition of sperm directly into the reproductive tract, and are hence regarded as 'In Vivo' fertilisation techniques.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a much more complex and costly procedure which involves fertilising the egg with the sperm outside of the body in a laboratory environment which simulates the female ovulatory process. The process normally requires hormone injections to be taken for several weeks so that several eggs mature at the same time and to ensure that viable eggs can be surgically extracted. The eggs are fertilised with 'washed' sperm. 2-6 days after fertilisation, the egg is then implanted into a female uterus, with the aim of the remainder of the pregnancy being carried out naturally.

What are the pros and cons of IUI, IVF and ICI?

Of the three techniques, is the most accessible, simplest, lowest cost and least complex of the three methods. It is also the only option which can be safely performed in your own home.

In the UK, IUI is often the first technique people often try which requires the support of a fertility consultant. If using the NHS, it can be a long lead time in starting the process, since you will need to wait for a consultation appointment, and your assigned consultant will need to go through your full medical background and perform tests to understand why you might be having difficulty conceiving. It should also be noted that certain factors such as age or obesity, may prohibit access to NHS funded IUI or IVF treatment.

IVF is the most invasive and most costly of the three options, however, it is also the only viable option in some cases. This can apply to people who have cervical issues, or chronic endometriosis for instance. Like all three options, it's often the case that IVF will require multiple rounds of treatment.

Many people prefer to take the approach of starting with the least costly and least invasive methods first, before or whilst waiting for access to other methods.

Typical costs of IUI, IVF and ICI in the UK

In the UK, there is the option of both NHS as well as privately funded IUI and IVF. As noted earlier in the article, access to NHS funded IUI or IVF is dependent on an assessment which can take several months to arrange. This assessment will take into account full medical history, lifestyle factors such as weight as well as age. The NHS will not fund IVF or IUI for people who are obese (or having a BMI of over 30) or over the age of 42.

In the private market, costs for IUI typically range from £700 to £1600 for each cycle. The younger the woman is, the higher the chances of each cycle resulting in a pregnancy, however many women will require several cycles of IUI before achieving a successful pregnancy, so it is worth bearing this in mind when looking at the overall cost of the treatment.

Private IVF treatment on the other hand, can cost in the region of £5,000 for each round of treatment, and the NHS will normally offer a maximum of 3 cycles of IVF for women who meet the eligibility criteria, which is defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Again with IVF, success rate for each cycle depends strongly upon age, and according to NHS figures, between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:

  • 29% for women under 35
  • 23% for women aged 35 to 37
  • 15% for women aged 38 to 39
  • 9% for women aged 40 to 42
  • 3% for women aged 43 to 44
  • 2% for women aged over 44

In Conclusion

The journey to pregnancy can be a longer one than many people would like, and when couples feel under pressure to conceive, we know the costs of fertility treatment can often feel daunting and add to the sense of pressure. We hope that Eive Kits can offer a sensible first step on the road to exploring fertility treatment for some. However, whether you end up deciding to try using Eive Kits, first, last, or if you decide that actually would prefer to try IUI or IVF instead, we hope this information has been useful for you and wish you the greatest of success!