Around 25% of adults in the US don’t want kids, which leaves the other three quarters hoping to start a family one day.
Whilst many couples find success in more traditional pregnancy paths, IVF and adoption, artificial insemination remains a positive and accessible way to get pregnant.
If you’re thinking of pursuing artificial insemination as a way to start a family, the first thing you need to do is speak to your doctor who will be able to give you the best medical advice and guidance about the process.
However, if you’re wondering – ‘what is artificial insemination?’ Perhaps you’re looking for a handy introduction to the process and what it involves – you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve got all the information you need to get a better idea of this process.
Let’s take a closer look at artificial insemination and what it involves:
What Is Artificial Insemination?
Artificial insemination is a method used to help a woman get pregnant. It delivers sperm to the cervix or uterus in replacement of this happening ‘naturally’ via intercourse between a man and a woman.
The sperm that is used can be from a woman’s partner, or from a wide range of sources including a nominated or paid for sperm donor. The sperm can sometimes be treated to help make them more likely to travel through the Fallopian tubes and penetrate the egg. A female may also take special medications prescribed by fertility doctors which help to boost the follicle growth inside the ovaries and increase overall chances of the insemination being successful.
The Process Of Artificial Insemination
During the natural process of making a baby, a man and a woman have sex and the sperm is ejaculated from the penis via a carrier fluid, which in combination with the cervical mucous created by the banging helps the sperm get to the uterus quickly.
The sperm then goes into the vagina, through the cervix, uterus and then the funnel shaped entrance to the Fallopian tubes where a successful start to the pregnancy means the sperm has penetrated the egg and conception has occurred.
From here, though, there’s a little way to go before true pregnancy begins.
If the egg is fertilised, little cilia follicles in the Fallopian tube then move the fertilised egg (called a zygote at this time) through the tubes and into the uterus up to five days after conception has occurred.
The sperm and the egg will then divide and increase in numbers, and this is called a blastocyst at this time, which attaches to the wall of the uterus about six days from when the egg was fertilised.
For the next 3-4 days the implantation process occurs and is completed by day 10 after fertilisation of the egg. A few days later after various processes to prepare the uterus and the body for the pregnancy, the embryo is developed.
The entire process from the egg fertilisation onwards remains the same when artificial insemination occurs only for various reasons the delivery of the sperm needs to occur in a slightly different way to intercourse.
There are two methods of artificial insemination which are ICI and IUI.
Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
ICI is shown to be successful in nearly 40% of cases after about six attempts. The process is where sperm is placed in the cervix which is like the gateway to the uterus. Artificial insemination at home or in a doctors office is usually ICI. There are multiple methods and additions relating to ICI including:
- A woman will take Clomid (or similar), a medication which helps to bring on ovulation and boost the chance of several eggs being released.
- Sperm is donated via a woman’s partner in which case the process is usually being done with the help of a doctor as the couples natural intercourse is not resulting in pregnancy.
- Sperm can be donated from a sperm donor sample which could be inserted privately without any involvement from doctors at all as where a trusted friend may have donated their sperm.
- The sperm is placed inside the vagina using a syringe or something called a cervical cap. This can be done by a doctor, a partner or even a trusted friend.
- A woman may have her ovulation tracked using an app, ovulation kits, calendar tracking, ultrasounds, basal temperature monitoring or a mixture of these methods.
- Most women stay lying down for up to an hour after insemination and may even raise their hips using cushions to encourage the sperm to move into the uterus successfully.
- The pregnancy test is taken around two weeks after insemination to see if insemination was successful.
- The process can be repeated regularly depending on each individual couple.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is successful in around 40% of cases after around six attempts. This number is a little higher overall than ICU and that is thought to be because prepared sperm has a better chance of fertilising and prepared sperm is most commonly used in IUI and not ICI.
In this process the sperm is placed into the uterus directly. Unlike ICI this has to be done by a medical professional and often also involves special measures like preparing the semen to make it more concentrated and more likely to result in a pregnancy.
Once the sperm is ready a woman who is ovulating will have her cervix opened using special medical instruments so that the sperm can be placed into the uterus directly.
Why Choose Artificial Insemination?
There are lots of reasons that couples or individuals choose artificial insemination including:
- A same sex couple who are men may choose this method to help a surrogate carry their baby using their sperm, or if both are female they may use this method to get pregnant using a sperm donor. Around 200,000 children in America are raised by same sex parents and that number is growing as LBGTQ adoption and parenting becomes more accepted, available and accessible across the board.
- A woman may be one of the 10% of females who struggle to get pregnant and so AI helps the chance of success.
- A man could be totally infertile as with 10-15% of men who are infertile and have no sperm. Or a man could have low sperm motility, a low sperm count or similar issues which make AI a possible way to boost the chance of pregnancy, or a way for a heterosexual couple to get pregnant using a sperm donor.
- A woman may be single and wish to use AI with a sperm donor to have a baby.
- A couple may not wish to use their own sperm because of medical problems with their genes and so a sperm donor is a preferable option.
- When artificial insemination at home occurs with the ICI option and no medical intervention the process is free.
- With medical intervention the cost of artificial insemination is still much cheaper than IVF and sometimes insurance companies pay for some of the treatment.
Artificial Insemination At Home
If you are wondering – what is artificial insemination and can I do it at home? You’d be right to think about whether or not this is an option, especially as it can be free in many cases.
People who choose this method of insemination because it is more personal and less sterile than having it done in a clinic. It also costs less than having it done medically and it can also be more convenient too.
To do it, you can use frozen or fresh sperm. Fresh sperm has to have been recently ejaculated and will only stay alive 15-30 minutes after ejaculation.
You will want to use a clean receptacle for the donor to catch their sperm in, which you can then have a partner or trusted friend insert into the vagina using a needless syringe.
For the best results try to do this up and back, coating the cervix and vaginal walls. You can also use a menstrual cup which you fill with sperm and then leave for an hour or more so the sperm can get into the uterus.
With frozen sperm you tend to order it from a sperm bank who ship it to you with instructions including how to defrost it and how long it is stable for when frozen (usually 14 days). You then insert it using the same method as with fresh sperm when the time is right.
The sperm, whether frozen or fresh, is inserted using an ICI method of AI when done at home. The exception to this is if you have a midwife come to you who is able to perform IUI at your house.
- When using a partners sperm consider testing the sperm for STI’s, quality and genetics just so you have all the information you need
- When using a friends sperm, consider testing the sperm for STI’s, quality and genetics just so you have all the information you need
- Make sure you are legally protected when it comes to using any sperm donor. Consider parental rights, legal rights and more when you’re using the sperm of a friend
- Try to keep yourself in the most healthy condition possible to get the best chance of AI being successful with your chosen sperm and insemination method. Eat a healthy diet cut out unhelpful habits and exercise. Dr Larisa Corda has lots of free information and advice relating to fertility and how to boost it.
The Female Orgasm And An Increase Of Success Rates
There are lots and lots of old wives tales around different items/ actions/ occurrences boosting the chance of conception when it comes to standard intercourse or AI.
One of those rumours is that if a female orgasms when the sperm is put in place there is more chance of conception occurring. As this article describes well, this is simply not true. However, there are lots of reasons to incorporate pleasure into the insemination process with your partner at home if you wish to do so.
Some couples like to make the process more sensual or sexual as a way to bond whilst making a baby, but in a non-traditional way.
Speak To Your Doctor About Artificial Insemination
Artificial insemination can be a great option for some couples or individuals who wish to get pregnant, and require a different method to traditional sex to get there.
Even if you don’t want to commit to using a doctor for artificial insemination it can be great to go and talk it out anyway so you know what it involves.
Usually, it makes sense to get your fertility tested anyway just to check you and your partner are in the best shape for conception and if not you can then know how to work around those hurdles to get the pregnancy you want.
As with everything but especially with such an important topic, the more you know the better.