Using human artificial insemination techniques to get pregnant is less invasive and potentially less costly than other forms of infertility treatments.
Candidates for Artificial Insemination
A couple who has been trying to get pregnant without success will often be referred to a fertility doctor who can discuss the option of artificial insemination. Persons who may be good candidates for an artificial insemination procedure include those with these conception problems:
- Men with low sperm count
- Men with ejaculation problems or sexual dysfunction
- Women with forms of endometriosis
- Women with cervical mucus issues
- Unexplained infertility problems
Couples who experience male infertility may choose to use donor sperm in their artificial insemination process. Donor sperm can also be used if a woman does not have a partner, although some clinics may not treat single women.
Before undergoing the artificial insemination procedure, most couples will be required to have full screenings. This may include blood tests, hormone tests, sperm sample tests, and ovulation tests. Depending on the woman's ovulation, she may need fertility drugs in conjunction with artificial insemination to produce a stimulated cycle.
Since artificial insemination is used to put sperm into the woman's reproductive system, it is important she have clear and viable fallopian tubes from which her eggs can travel.
Artificial Insemination Techniques
Although artificial insemination has come to be synonymous with intrauterine insemination (IUI), it also refers to several other ways of becoming pregnant using assisted techniques. While some of these insemination methods may not be widely used, they are available and might be worth looking into depending on your particular fertility problems.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination is one of the first treatments doctors will use after a fertility problem occurs. This technique is the most commonly used of all the human artificial insemination procedures done today. It involves washing and preparing sperm before using a catheter to place the sperm into the womb at the time of ovulation. Procedural methods may vary slightly from doctor to doctor.
Higher success rates have been found with this technique that other artificial techniques, although rates vary widely depending on the fertility problems, drugs used/not used, and maternal age. Success rates tend to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent.
Other Insemination Techniques
Besides IUI, the procedure can also be done by:
- Intracervical insemination: Semen is placed into the cervix.
- Intrafallopian (or intratubal) insemination: A technique that uses a catheter to place semen into fallopian tubes.
- Intravaginal insemination: Placing semen into the vagina before ovulation using a safe syringe; this insemination is typical of a home insemination.
- Intraperitoneal insemination: Injection of semen using a needle through the top of the vagina into the peritoneal area.
All artificial insemination techniques require close monitoring of the woman's ovulation cycles so that insemination can be performed between 24 and 48 hours before ovulation occurs. Cycles can be monitored by a doctor through blood tests and ultrasounds (common for women on fertility drugs) or by women at home using ovulation prediction kits.
Approximately two weeks after the procedure is performed, the woman will take a pregnancy test. If it is positive, she will then be schedule for an ultrasound to check for pregnancy viability and multiple embryos.
Risks of Human Artificial Insemination
As with any medical procedure, artificial insemination carries risk. Two of the biggest worries may be that of failure and of being inseminated using the "wrong" sperm. Considering the high cost of infertility treatments, you should choose one that has the least chance of failure according to your fertility problem. To avoid semen mix-ups, screen your doctors and clinic carefully, asking how semen is labeled and stored.
Instances of multiples in pregnancy go up when fertility drugs are used in conjunction with artificial insemination techniques. Carrying several babies at a time comes with risks not only to the mother, but to the unborn children as well.
Various fertility drugs also have side effects and risks that should be discussed with a doctor before undergoing treatment, including that of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). If OHSS or other unwanted side effects occur while using fertility drugs, let your doctor know immediately before you continue your treatments.
Mild pain or discomfort may be felt during the insemination procedure, but it does not pose a high risk for the woman being inseminated.
Human artificial insemination is one of the least invasive forms of infertility treatments available. While it can be performed on a woman with natural cycles, the success rates do rise if fertility drugs are also used. Few risks are associated with the actual procedure itself, and the cost can be significantly less than that of in vitro fertilization.