At its most basic level, artificial insemination is a way to treat infertility. It’s a procedure by which sperm – perhaps your partner’s sperm, maybe the sperm of a donor – is inserted into the uterus or cervix with a catheter, as opposed to intercourse.
Artificial insemination differs to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) because fertilisation of the egg occurs inside the uterus, after insertion. In IVF treatments, the egg is fertilised outside the womb and then inserted into the uterus.
Who is suitable for artificial insemination?
In Australia, it’s recommended a woman consult a fertility specialist if she has not conceived naturally after one year of trying. The doctor will look at factors such as painful or irregular periods, as well as a history of pregnancy and miscarriage.
The specialist will also want to know if the man has suffered a testicular injury, fathered any previous children, or had any developmental problems. The male’s semen will also be tested for sperm count, sperm.
There are conditions such as erectile dysfunction in men and endometriosis in women that can make falling pregnant difficult without intervention, and in these cases, artificial insemination might be an option.
It is the safest option when a male has previously undergone radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
What’s involved in artificial insemination?
First, the sperm is collected through masturbation, surgery, or the use of a ‘collection condom’.
The sperm is “washed” almost immediately after it is collected. According to IVF Australia, this is done to increase the concentration of motile sperm.
Intrauterine insemination is the most common method for artificial insemination. It involves injecting the sperm directly to the uterus through the cervix. The sperm is pushed through the catheter while the walls of the vagina are held open with a speculum.
The best time to inject the sperm is directly after ovulation and, in some cases, a hormone treatment might be recommended to women to trigger ovulation and increase the chance of success. For example, injections of Follicle Stimulating Hormones can be used to stimulate the ovaries.
Mild cramping or discomfort can sometimes follow the procedure, however, IVF Australia suggests women can return to work directly following insertion. There should be no downtime involved.
What are the chances of success?
The possibility of success through artificial insemination is related to many factors and is highly dependent on age.
In Australia, it is estimated the overall chance of a baby being born through assisted reproductive technologies is around 20 per cent. This is similar to the chances of a fertile couple in their 20s falling pregnancy after unprotected sex.
The success rate for all reproductive procedures – including artificial insemination – declines with age.