Artificial insemination is a simple procedure used in some couples as a treatment for infertility. It is quite a safe technique, wherein the sperm is directly injected into a person’s cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus.
Artificial insemination can be done using two approaches:
- Intrauterine insemination: The most commonly used type of artificial insemination, wherein washed sperm are directly placed in the uterus with a catheter.
- Intracervical insemination: A method that closely simulates the natural ejaculation of semen by the penis into the vagina during intercourse. It involves the introduction of unwashed or raw semen into the vagina at the entrance to the cervix.
How do they perform artificial insemination?
The procedure is short and painless and may involve the following steps:
- Because the egg is viable only for up to 24 hours after release, artificial insemination is always timed to coincide with ovulation. Ideally, it should be done within six hours of ovulation (natural cycle) and within 24 to 48 hours after the fertility medication injection (stimulatory cycles).
- The doctor may use either of the methods: ovulation kits (predicts ovulation through a surge or release of luteinizing hormone), a transvaginal ultrasound, or blood tests to make sure that the person is ovulating at the time of artificial insemination.
- In some cases, the female partner is put on fertility drugs, such as Clomid (clomiphene citrate) to help produce multiple eggs.
- The male partner is asked to provide a semen sample after practicing abstinence (avoiding intercourse) for two to five days to increase sperm count in the sample.
- This sample collection can be done at home, in a private room, at the doctor’s clinic, or hospital.
- The sperm sample is then washed in a laboratory within an hour of ejaculation.
- This process of washing the sperm in a lab removes chemicals in the semen that may cause discomfort for a woman and raises the chances of getting pregnant.
- The sperm is liquefied at room temperature for 30 minutes and a harmless chemical is added to separate the most active sperm.
- A centrifuge method is used to separate sperm cells from semen. This process helps separate motile from nonmotile sperm, which creates a high concentration of viable, healthy, active sperm to increase the chances of pregnancy.
- The female partner is asked to lie on an examination table, with legs in stirrups.
- A speculum is then inserted into the vagina (similar to a pap test).
- A long thin tube called a catheter containing sperm is put through the vagina and cervix into the uterus.
- After the insertion of sperm, the catheter is removed followed by the speculum.
- Some may have a little cramping during the procedure or light spotting afterward.
- The person is asked to lie down for about 15 to 45 minutes post-procedure to increase the chances of fertilization.
- Once done, you are allowed to get back to your usual activities.
The couple is asked to wait for two weeks before taking an at-home pregnancy test.
The outcome of intrauterine insemination is for the sperm to swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize a waiting egg, and then the blastocyst implants into the uterine lining (occurs within 6 to 12 days), resulting in pregnancy.
When is artificial insemination used?
Artificial insemination is often used by couples who have tried to conceive naturally for at least a year without success.
The procedure is used for several fertility problems, including:
- Male infertility
- Low sperm count
- Immotile sperm
- Weak or frizzy sperm
- Abnormalities in sperm morphology (size and shape of the sperm)
- Ejaculation dysfunction disorders
- Female infertility
- Idiopathic (unknown or unexplained) infertility
Single women and female couples may use artificial insemination using donor sperm to achieve pregnancy without a male partner.
What is the success rate of artificial insemination?
Experts suggest trying artificial insemination at least three to six times with injectable hormones before moving on to another treatment, such as in vitro fertilization with own eggs or donor eggs or sperm.
The rates of a successful pregnancy for artificial insemination are 10 to 15 percent per menstrual cycle using intracervical insemination and 15 to 20 percent per cycle using intrauterine insemination.
The success rates for artificial insemination may vary depending on the following factors:
- Older age (female partner)
- Poor egg or sperm quality
- A severe case of endometriosis
- Damage to the fallopian tubes (due to long-term infection)
- Use of fertility medications
What are the risks involved in artificial insemination?
Although artificial insemination is a relatively simple and safe procedure, there are certain risks of serious complications.
- Infection: Some may get an infection.
- Spotting: Some may complain of slight vaginal bleeding due to the placement of the catheter in the uterus, which does not affect the chances of pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies: When used with ovulation-inducing medications, the risk of multiple pregnancies increases significantly.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: A rare but serious complication of assisted reproduction technology (taking medications to stimulate ovulation).
Infertility and Artificial Insemination. https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/artificial-insemination
Intrauterine insemination (IUI). https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/intrauterine-insemination/about/pac-20384722
Artificial insemination history: hurdles and milestones. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498171/
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