Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
No matter why you are motivated to become pregnant without a male sexual partner, there are many ways in which you can still get pregnant. First, you should talk to a medical provider to find out which of the available routes to pregnancy would work best for you. You might be surprised at how many options there are.
IUI is an artificial insemination procedure. It takes place when cleaned sperm are concentrated and then inserted into your uterus during the time that your ovaries release eggs to be fertilized. The sperm will go through the fallopian tubes to fertilize those eggs, leading to pregnancy. This method depends on tracking menstrual cycles or inducing egg-release with medication.
Why Should I Get IUI?
This method is often used in the following situations:
- To allow the use of donor sperm. IUI is usually used for women who want to use donor sperm to get pregnant. Usually, donor sperm is frozen in a lab, then unfrozen and inserted during IUI.
- In cases of unknown infertility. If the cause for infertility is unknown, IUI is usually the first treatment tried.
- To deal with endometriosis infertility. If you have endometriosis, this will also probably be the first treatment tried.
- To counteract mild male-factor infertility. IUI is also used if you are struggling to conceive because your male partner’s test shows below-average sperm concentration, weak movement of sperm, abnormal size, and shape of sperm. IUI allows doctors to choose your male partner's best and most fertile sperm.
- To permit pregnancy in spite of cervical cancer. Your cervix is at the end of your uterus and is opening between the vagina and uterus. Cervical cancer can compromise this opening in many ways, preventing sperm from ever entering your uterus. IUI’s help by totally taking the cervix out of the equation and depositing the sperm directly into the uterus.
- In cases of ovulatory-factor infertility. Sometimes women do not have a menstrual cycle or have a lessened number of eggs; in this case, they may also have infertility.
- Semen allergy. This is extremely rare, but some women do have allergies to the protein in semen. Semen can cause them burning, redness, and swelling. This is easily solved through your partner wearing a condom. However, to get pregnant, IUI might be a good solution for this scenario.
IUIs involve very low risks and are considered quite safe. Sometimes you need to look out for infection or spotting, but these things do not usually affect or prevent pregnancy. IUI in combination with certain medications can increase your chance of having twins or multiple pregnancies at once.
The procedure is only about twenty minutes and is quite effective. However, you should always wait for about two weeks before you take a pregnancy test.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF is a series of procedures used to prevent genetic disorders and to help conceive a baby. IVF involves harvesting mature eggs, which are then fertilized in a lab. The fertilized eggs are then placed into the uterus. A complete cycle of this takes almost a month, but it can take longer depending on how long each process step takes. Nevertheless, it is the most effective way to conceive without a man's direct sexual involvement.
You can use either your eggs and your partner’s sperm, or you can use sperm or eggs from a donor. It is not guaranteed that IVF will work or that your baby will be healthy. It is also a very involved and time-consuming process. With the IVF method, you can choose to have multiple pregnancies by getting more than an embryo placed into your uterus.
Why Should I Get IVF?
Some of the reasons to get IVF are:
- Damage or blocks to the fallopian tubes. It is challenging for an egg to get fertilized or make its way to the uterus if the fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged.
- Menstrual disorders. Menstrual disorders result in fewer eggs in women. The fewer eggs there are, the fewer eggs are available to be fertilized.
- Endometriosis. This is a condition where tissue that is only supposed to grow in the uterus grows outside of the uterus elsewhere in the abdominal area. If this tissue grows in places like the fallopian tubes or ovaries, this can be incredibly impactful on fertility.
- Uterine fibroids. These are benign tumors in the uterus and are common for women in their thirties and forties.
- Tubal sterilization or removal. Procedures like tubal ligations where your fallopian tubes are permanently cut or blocked as a form of contraception can be counteracted by IVF.
- Lessened sperm or sperm movement. Any abnormalities in the concentration, activity, or shape of sperm can lessen the chances of fertilizing the egg.
- Genetic disorders. This is useful if you know that you or your partner have a genetic disorder you could potentially pass on to your child. IVF allows you to participate in a test called preimplantation genetic testing. Eggs are harvested from the mother and then fertilized. They can be screened for disorders. Then, the eggs that are found to be free of genetic disorders can be planted in the uterus.
- Preservation or other conditions. There are specific treatments like radiation or chemotherapy that can affect fertility. Preserving eggs can be a great way to help this. You simply harvest and then freeze your eggs for use in the future.
IVF is also useful if you need a surrogate mother. If your uterus is not able to handle pregnancy or if you have other health issues that do not allow you to carry a baby to term, you can choose someone else to carry your eggs harvested from IVF.
Egg and sperm donation
Egg and sperm donation involves someone in the reproduction process who does not plan to raise the child. This can involve the use of donated eggs, sperm, or embryos. It can also include using another person to carry the child to term. This can involve you or your partner’s eggs or sperm carried in your own womb, or it can use a host mother carrying your fertile eggs to term. If it is the latter, that is called surrogacy.
These arrangements are complicated ethically, legally, and emotionally. Therefore, it is essential you and any partner you choose to involve to evaluate and research them before going forward.
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NHS: "Treatment Infertility."
Mayo Clinic: "Intrauterine insemination(IUI)."
Mayo Clinic: "In vitro fertilization."
ReproductiveFacts.org: "Third-party Reproduction: Sperm, Egg, and Embryo Donation and Surrogacy."
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