For some people with infertility problems, insemination procedures can improve the chances of pregnancy. These procedures use a thin, flexible tube (catheter) to place sperm into the female reproductive tract during ovulation.
Before the procedure, superovulation medicine may be used to increase the number of available eggs. The sperm are often washed and concentrated. This means that only highly active, healthy sperm are chosen. These sperm are more capable of fertilizing an egg.
Sperm can be placed in the vagina, cervix, or uterus during insemination. The sperm then travel to the fallopian tubes, where they can fertilize the egg or eggs. If the sperm are placed in the uterus, it's called intrauterine insemination.
Donor sperm can be used if the male partner has a very low or absent sperm count or carries a risk of genetic disease. Some people use donor sperm when they want to get pregnant without a male partner.
What To Expect
These techniques are done on an outpatient basis and require only a short recovery time. You may feel cramping during the procedure, especially if sperm are inserted into your uterus. You may be told to avoid strenuous activities for the rest of the day.
Why It Is Done
Insemination procedures may be done if:
- Tests have shown no cause for infertility (unexplained infertility).
- Infertility is caused by retrograde ejaculation. This means semen and sperm are released into the urinary bladder instead of out of the penis.
- There aren't enough sperm in the semen, or they're poor quality. In this case, your doctor may recommend that you try ICSI. ICSI stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
- There is a problem with the cervix, such as from prior surgery, that prevents sperm from traveling through it.
- Someone who's single wants to get pregnant. Or an LGBTQ+ couple wants to start a family.
How Well It Works
Treatment success is strongly influenced by age. This is because an aging egg supply decreases pregnancy rate, and miscarriage risk increases with age.
For people with unexplained infertility, intrauterine insemination can improve the chances of becoming pregnant when combined with superovulation treatment.
Insemination combined with superovulation increases the risk of multiple pregnancy (conceiving more than one fetus). Multiple pregnancy is high-risk for mother and fetuses.
Insemination procedures pose a slight risk of infection.
Some people have severe cramping during insemination.
There is a slight risk of puncturing the uterus during intrauterine insemination.
There is a slight risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome if superovulation is used together with insemination.
There may be a higher risk of birth defects for babies conceived by certain assisted reproductive techniques. Talk with your doctor about these possible risks.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology