What is artificial insemination?

Understanding Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is a technique that can help with infertility in both men and women. During the procedure, sperm are inserted directly into the woman’s cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus. The most common type of artificial insemination is intrauterine insemination, in which the sperm is placed directly in the uterus. This is done to make it easier for the sperm to swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize an egg without having to go through any obstructions.

Although there are other, more advanced procedures and techniques that may have better results, artificial insemination is still a common recommendation by doctors. This is because this procedure usually has very few side effects and is relatively inexpensive.

Why is artificial insemination done?

Artificial insemination may be chosen for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Unexplained infertility: If it is unknown why you and your partner are struggling to get pregnant, artificial insemination, along with taking ovulation-inducing medications, is usually one of the first treatments attempted.
  • Donor sperm: If you are using donor sperm to get pregnant for any reason, artificial insemination is the most common route used to fertilize the eggs.
  • Subfertility: If the sperm has a below-average concentration, weak movements, or other abnormalities, then artificial insemination can usually help with this by separating the weak sperm from the stronger sperm.
  • Semen allergy: Some women have an allergy to specific proteins found in semen, which can cause redness, burning, and swelling where semen makes contact with the skin. Since many of the semen proteins are removed before the sperm is inserted, artificial insemination can be a good treatment for this condition.
  • Cervical factor infertility: If the cervical mucus is too thick for the sperm to travel through , then bypassing the cervix using artificial insemination is usually effective.

What are the risks of artificial insemination?

Although this is a very simple procedure with very low chance for complications, there are certain risks associated with artificial insemination. Less than 1% of women experience infection as a result of the procedure. Sometimes after the procedure, women will experience a small amount of vaginal bleeding or spotting. If you are also taking ovulation-inducing medications along with artificial insemination, then the risk for multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.) is increased significantly. Early labor and low birth weight are just a few of the risks that come with multiple pregnancy.

How do you learn the results of the procedure?

It is customary to wait two weeks before taking an at-home pregnancy test after your artificial insemination procedure is complete. If you try to take the pregnancy test too soon, it could result in a false negative (since your hormone levels are not yet measurable) or a false positive (if you are taking ovulation-inducing medications). You can also take a blood test, which is more sensitive in detecting pregnancy hormones after fertilization than at-home tests.

If you don’t become pregnant after the first try, your doctor will likely recommend that you try artificial insemination at least three to six times before moving on to another method.  

Last Updated: May 27, 2016