Whether you have been trying for some time to start a family without success or you have made the choice to get pregnant by using a sperm donor, artificial insemination is a safe procedure often used to increase a woman’s chances of conception. For some women getting pregnant is not always easy and artificial insemination can help when there are issues such as male factor infertility or unexplained infertility.
There are two different artificial insemination procedures: intracervical insemination (ICI) in which sperm is placed directly into the reproductive tract and intrauterine insemination (IUI) involving placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus. The IUI method is more common and has a higher success rate.
There are basically 5 steps to the artificial insemination procedure:
1: The physical exam -You and your male partner (or potential donor) will have a complete physical examination, including blood testing. A sperm sample will be analyzed to determine whether your partner has ejaculation problems and if so, your doctor can extract sperm from your partner or donor’s bladder after he ejaculates. The sperm is then collected and utilized during the artificial insemination procedure.
2: Fertility drugs and monitoring – Before the artificial insemination procedure begins, your doctor may prescribe fertility drugs like Clomid or gonadotropins/injectables. Combining hormone treatments with IUI increases the chances at pregnancy. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) may also be injected to trigger ovulation. Sperm should be inserted within 24-36 hours after this injection.
3: Preparing the sperm – If you are undergoing IUI, the sperm sample will undergo a special washing and processing procedure in order to make the sperm more concentrated. During this washing and processing phase, potentially toxic chemicals are removed thereby increasing the chances for pregnancy.
4: Insertion of the sperm – The artificial insemination procedure is quick and usually painless. The procedure involves inserting a speculum into the uterine cavity with a thin catheter and syringe. For those using ICI, the sperm will be placed into the vagina and deposited into the cervix with a soft catheter.
5: Rest – After the artificial insemination procedure, a cervical cap or sponge is placed into the vagina to keep the sperm near the cervix. This sponge or cap will be removed several hours after the procedure is over. You will be advised to lie down for 15-20 minutes with the sponge inside of you because this may boost your chances of getting pregnant.
If you utilize donor sperm in the artificial insemination procedure, the sperm will be analyzed for a variety of health conditions and viruses, including HIV and other infections. The current guidelines recommend that the donor sperm is quarantined for at least six months to ensure its safety.
As stated in step two, some doctors prescribe a round of fertility drugs prior to starting artificial insemination. The fertility drug process, known as ovulation induction or superovulation, will encourage a woman’s body to release more eggs in preparation for an IUI. Ovulation induction is known to increase the IUI success rate for women over 35.
Every couple has such a different fertility journey. Your personal health as well as your partner’s or donor’s will affect your pregnancy success rate. If you or your partner are dealing with infertility, artificial insemination may be just what you need to achieve pregnancy.