When you and your partner speak to a doctor about getting assistance for infertility, the doctor may suggest a technique known as “artificial insemination.” It’s a simple process with few side effects, and it can help some couples who’ve been unsuccessful in getting pregnant. Artificial insemination introduces sperm directly into the woman’s uterus, cervix, or fallopian tubes, allowing her to conceive without sexual intercourse. It can be done with either the partner’s or donor’s sperm.
The most common techniques are “intrauterine insemination (IUI) and intracervical insemination (ICI). The former is when the doctor puts the sperm in the uterus, and the latter is when sperm is put in the cervix. But why is this important? Because it shortens the trip for the sperm to get around any obstructions. Read on to learn more about artificial insemination.
Who Can Try Artificial Insemination?
According to healthline, The conception requires sperms to move up to the vagina, through the cervix, inside the uterus, and finally a fallopian tube, where egg fertilization happens. However, a man’s sperm may sometimes lack the motility to make the trip. Other times, the cervix isn’t favorable for letting sperm move into the uterus. AI may help a woman get pregnant in these scenarios and other situations.
Cases when a doctor may suggest that a couple pursues AI include:
- After 6 months of continuous sex, if a woman is over 35.
- After 12 months of having unprotected sex, if a woman is under 35.
- According to WebMD, It’s also used in male fertility scenarios, where there’s low sperm count, maneuverability, or motility issues.
- Can solve female infertility caused by endometriosis, abnormal reproductive organs, or thick/unreceptive cervical mucus. This means that the mucus surrounding the cervix prevents sperms from getting inside the uterus and fallopian tube. AI lets sperm skip the cervical mucus completely.
- Women in same-sex relationships and those who are single may also go for artificial insemination, and donor sperm is normally used in these scenarios.
- Doctors may also recommend AI when they cannot tell why a couple is infertile.
The Process Of Artificial Insemination
According to Parents, health care professionals schedule AI depending on a woman’s menstrual cycle. A woman normally tries AI once per cycle. It has the highest chances of success if it corresponds with ovulation, which occurs when the ovary releases a mature egg about two weeks before the monthly period. You can check when you’re ovulating using at-home ovulation test kits or blood and urine tests done at the doctor’s. There are two ways, and here is how they’re done.
Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
This kind of AI involves inserting sperm inside the cervix (passageway outside the uterus). It can either be done at your doctor’s or home. Steps include:
- Tracking your ovulation cycle as explained. Your physician may prescribe medications to encourage ovulation and increase the chances of releasing many eggs.
- Your partner will donate sperm for use, or you can obtain a sample from a donor.
- The doctor will insert it into the vagina with a special syringe or place it in a cervical cap, which is then inserted inside the cervix and stays there for a specific time. The doctor typically instructs you to lie down for fifteen to thirty minutes, allowing the sperm to travel up from the cervix to the uterus.
- You’re allowed to go back to your regular activities after this is done, and in about fourteen days or longer, you’ll take pregnancy tests to check whether the process was a success.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI involves inserting sperm beyond the cervix and directly inside the uterus. The steps for this procedure are the same as those of ICI but have to be done at a doctor’s office and with specially prepped sperm. Extra steps include:
Washing or preparing the sperm to get rid of potential proteins that may affect fertilization and also to increase sperm concentration, which ideally increases the chances of conception. The doctor uses a speculum, making the uterus easier to access. Also, they use a specific thin instrument inserted through the vagina to put the sperm inside the uterus.
The Side Effects Of Artificial Insemination
Some women may feel some cramping or experience light bleeding after the procedure. Others may not experience any side effects at all. If the process is done in a sterile manner, there are minimal risks of infection. But it’s possible for women to experience inflammation or pelvic infection after AI.
Another side effect is that taking fertility medicine along with AI increases the chances of multiple pregnancies, such as twins and triplets. A common myth about AI and taking fertility medicine is that they’re linked with a higher risk for birth defects. However, this isn’t true, as verified by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
The Success Rates Of Artificial Insemination
The success rate of AI is dependent on more than the approach used. Factors include:
- The maternal age
- Underlying fertility problems
- Using fertility medications
Research published in the journal Human Reproduction revealed that ICI had a 37.9% success rate after six treatment cycles, while IUI had a 40.5% success rate after six treatments.
Sources: Healthline, WebMD, Parents
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