I came across an article this week that reported a lioness in South Africa has given birth to the worlds first assisted conception cubs. This article stood out to me as I go on my very first safari in Tanzania in a few weeks and it made me think of how different a safari could look if some of the animals weren’t in existence anymore. It really is incredible to think that fertility treatment can offer hope to saving species threatened by extinction across the world and researchers are confident that this breakthrough could do just that.
Experts at the University of Pretoria have pioneered this research into IVF for big cats where they harvested the sperm of a male lion which was optimally placed inside the lioness and she gave birth to two healthy lion cubs three and a half months later at the Ukutulu Conservation Centre. Although the artificial insemination protocol was designed for African lions, it is hoped that it can be adapted to many other endangered big cats such as tigers and snow leopards.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
The procedure used to achieve the birth of these lion cubs was Intrauterine Insemination (IUI); where the release of eggs is timed to coincide either with regular intercourse or in this case an injection of high quality prepared sperm directly into the womb. In humans, the success rates for IUI procedures are significantly lower than that of IVF and are not suited to everyone. IUI tends to be used in people who need donated sperm or have no female fertility problems including single women and same sex couple, couples with unexplained infertility, couples who are unable to have vaginal intercourse and those who have a condition in which they need specific help to get pregnant (for example a condition that could be passed on to their partner or resultant child).
IUI is not suitable for people who have an advanced maternal age due to the risk of low quality eggs / low quantity of eggs, people who have blocked fallopian tubes or people whose partners have male factor infertility. Like with most fertility treatments, the younger the woman, the higher the chance of getting pregnant using their own eggs and the average success for women under 35 is only about 14% in the UK. Often multiple IUI cycles are prescribed for patients and performed back to back to give them a chance of success.
Although IUI treatment is considered less invasive and cheaper than IVF, the cost can soon add up over multiple cycles, especially if they are stimulated cycles. It is always worth weighing up your options as to whether IUI or IVF would be better suited to you.
Here at Assured Fertility, we do not offer IUI treatments due to the chance of success being significantly less than by using traditional IVF. As we offer 100% money back guarantees on all our plans if our patients aren’t successful, our consultants will use the optimum treatment to help you achieve that success.
Holly Scott, Patient and Clinic Liaison Manager
*subject to acceptance on our plan