At-home artificial insemination (IUI and ICI) may be an option for you if you're trying to achieve pregnancy. However, there are potential limitations and risks involved and you may want to discuss this with your doctor prior to starting the process.
About Artificial Inseminations
Artificial insemination is when sperm is placed inside the uterus or at the cervix area in order to help achieve pregnancy. This can be performed during a natural cycle or your doctor may prescribe fertility medication to help induce ovulation. These procedures are referred to as:
An IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a procedure that uses a catheter to enter the cervix and insert sperm directly into the uterus. This procedure is typically performed in-office by a doctor or midwife. If you are desiring an at-home IUI, you should contact your midwife to see if she may be able to assist you.
An ICI (intracervical insemination) is a procedure that inserts sperm over the cervix area. This is the procedure most likely used if you are having artificial insemination at home. Your midwife may be able to assist you with an at home ICI as well, however, this procedure is less invasive than an IUI and your partner may actually be able to help with the process.
IUIs and ICIs are a relatively short process time-wise and will take about five to ten minutes.
Will Sperm Washing Be Needed?
Sperm washing is commonly used for IUI (and IVF). Through a number of 'washes' the motile, higher quality sperm are separated from the seminal fluid and the sperm with poor motility. This allows only the good quality sperm to be used during the IUI procedure. If you are having an ICI procedure, you will typically not need washed sperm, it is unnecessary since fertility issues are not a concern.
At Home ICI Guidelines
If you decide to try an at-home ICI (or IUI), you should discuss this thoroughly with your doctor. You will need a syringe (no needle) and a sterile cup or special condom for the sperm collection. There are also artificial insemination kits that can be purchased. The basic guidelines of what to expect are as follows:
- You must first keep track of your menstrual cycle closely so you will know when to anticipate ovulation. An ovulation predictor kit would be helpful and should be used.
- You should be undressed from the waist down and lie back with your hips propped up on a pillow.
- Depending on your artificial insemination kit, you may have a needleless syringe or a cervical cap to use for the deposit of the sperm. With a syringe you will draw up the sperm from the container and then insert the syringe vaginally near the cervix and slowly inject the sperm to cover the cervix.
- If you are using a cervical cap, the sperm will be placed inside the cap. The cervical cap is inserted into the vagina near the cervix and will remain there for approximately six hours.
- After the insemination, your hips will remain propped up for about half an hour. Then you can resume your normal routine.
Limitations of At-Home Inseminations
There are a few limitations and drawbacks of performing at-home inseminations (ICI) which include:
- If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, it may be more difficult to pinpoint your ovulation day.
- An ICI is insemination at the cervix area. With an IUI, the sperm is inseminated past the cervix and into the uterus which will slightly increase your chances of pregnancy.
- The success rate of ICI is about 10 to 15 percent per cycle.
Risks of At-Home Inseminations
There are a few risks involved with at-home inseminations which include:
- If the ICI is performed incorrectly, you could experience tissue damage in the vaginal or cervical area.
- There is a risk of pelvic infection.
- You may experience some spotting.
- If you are on fertility medication, your chances of having a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets) increases.
Benefits of At-Home Inseminations
While the limitations and risks of at-home inseminations are a concern, there are many benefits of ICI as well. These include:
- Having the procedure done in the comfort of your own home.
- Your partner can still very much be part of the process.
- It is affordable and less costly than IUI or IVF.
- It is less stressful and can be an intimate experience between the couple.
Is ICI an Option for You?
At-home inseminations can actually be an excellent option for LGBTQ couples, heterosexual couples, and those who want to be a single parent who have no known fertility issues. If you have questions or need more information, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife.