Artificial Insemination

by Anai Rhoads

This procedure is an option for cervical mucous problems, low sperm count, inactive sperm, or sperm antibodies. AI is also an option for problems that affect male sexual performance such as impotence, and for physical problems such as obesity coupled with an unusually small penis, which can also affect male sexual performance. This is done only after you've tried to treat your infertility with other means.

The sperm is collected, washed, and then injected by syringe either into the vagina (which carries only a 12% success rate) or directly into the uterus (which carries a 10-22% success rate).

When a woman undergoes insemination with a donor's sperm, AI becomes DI -- donor insemination. Generally, DI is an ideal option for couples with untreatable male factor infertility or for single women, older women or lesbian couples desiring children.

Women undergoing AI must be able to ovulate; be clear of any luteal phase defects in order to have an "embryo-safe" uterus; have a good set of fallopian tubes; have no other pelvic abnormalities or serious infections.

There are three ways to artificially inseminate.

  • Homologous insemination
    Also known as "cup insemination," this is when the male partner's semen is washed, separated to improve motility, and placed in a cup at the cervix during ovulation. In order to place washed sperm in the cup, you'll need to be inseminated at your clinic or doctor's office.
  • Intracervical insemination (ICI)
    ICI is a little more involved. Here, a GIFT-like spinning of the semen (via centrifuge) is done to collect the best sperm. It is then placed in a catheter, which is used to pass the semen directly into the cervical canal. For each ICI attempt, you'll need to be inseminated at your clinic or doctor's office. Many couples are told to combine ICI with the cup to improve the odds between ICI attempts.
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
    IUI yields far better results (10-25%) than ICI or the cup as long as the insemination is timed properly. Just before ovulation, the semen is washed and spun with a sample of the male partner's blood, which creates a pellet of sperm with no semen. The dead or inactive sperm are then separated from the good sperm, placed in a catheter, and placed directly into the uterus. Sometimes fertility drugs are combined with an IUI procedure.

Anai Rhoads is a medical and political researcher/writer with a particular interest in the sanctions on Iraq and the wider effect of racism's influence in the Middle East. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights. Originally from Greece, she now resides in Virginia, USA with her husband and their two dogs, Bijou and Eva.

Copyright © Anai Rhoads. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.