An insemination procedure uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter) to
put sperm into the woman's reproductive tract. For some couples with
infertility problems, insemination can improve the
chances of pregnancy.
Donor sperm are used if the male partner is sterile, has an
extremely low sperm count, or carries a risk of genetic disease. A woman
planning to conceive without a male partner can also use donor sperm.
Prior to insemination, the sperm usually are washed and
concentrated (placing unwashed sperm directly into the uterus can cause severe
cramps). Concentration is accomplished by selectively choosing highly active,
healthy sperm that are more capable of fertilizing an egg.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the placing of sperm into a
uterus when she is
ovulating. This is achieved with a thin flexible tube
(catheter) that is passed into the vagina, through the
cervix, and into the uterus.
IUI can use sperm from the male partner or a donor. It is often
superovulation medicine to increase the number of
Artificial insemination (AI)
Artificial insemination (AI) is another name for intrauterine
insemination but can also refer to placing sperm in a woman's vagina or cervix
when she is ovulating. The sperm then travel into the
fallopian tubes, where they can fertilize the woman's
egg or eggs.
AI can be done with sperm from the male partner or a donor, and
can be combined with superovulation.
What To Expect After Treatment
These techniques are done on an outpatient basis and require only a
short recovery time. You may experience cramping during the procedure,
especially if sperm are inserted into your uterus. You may be advised to avoid
strenuous activities for the remainder of the day.
Why It Is Done
Intrauterine insemination or artificial insemination may be done
Tests have shown no cause for a couple's
infertility (unexplained infertility).
A man releases semen and
sperm into the urinary bladder instead of out the penis (retrograde
ejaculation). Sperm are collected, washed, and used for
A man's sperm are absent, low in quantity, or poor in
quality. In this case, your doctor may recommend that you try ICSI. ICSI stands
intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
is a problem with a woman's cervix, as from prior surgery, that prevents sperm
from traveling through it.
A woman does not have a male
How Well It Works
Insemination procedures can improve your chances of becoming
pregnant, especially when combined with
Treatment success is strongly influenced by a woman's age (an
aging egg supply decreases pregnancy rate, and miscarriage risk increases with
Most of the following success rates are given in terms of
pregnancies conceived; they do not reflect the fact that some pregnancies
miscarry. In any group of women, live birth rates are lower than early
Treating unexplained infertility
Superovulated IUI offers a greater chance of
pregnancy than does superovulated AI.1
Without superovulation, IUI, AI, and well-timed intercourse
produce similar pregnancy rates.1
Treating male infertility
For mild male infertility, IUI has produced
double the pregnancy rate (6.5%) of AI or well-timed intercourse (3%).1
Superovulation may only slightly increase the
chance of conception when using IUI for mild male infertility.1
For infertility caused by mild
endometriosis, women treated with IUI combined with
gonadotropin superovulation had a much higher birth rate than those receiving
Studies have found no benefit to the
practice of performing two IUI procedures per cycle for "subfertile" couples
(who have not naturally conceived in 1 year but have no severe causes of
Insemination combined with superovulation increases the risk of
multiple pregnancy (conceiving more than one fetus).1Multiple pregnancy is high-risk for mother and
fetuses. For more information, see the topic Multiple Pregnancy: Twins or
Insemination procedures pose a slight risk of infection.
Some women experience severe cramping during insemination.
There is a slight risk of puncturing the uterus during intrauterine
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.
What To Think About
Insemination procedures are the simplest and least expensive
methods of assisted reproduction. No anesthesia or surgery is needed.
Use of donor sperm
If donor sperm are necessary, you can choose a known or anonymous
donor who is willing to provide sperm.
Donor sperm from a male who isn't a sex
partner (as from a sperm bank, friend, or relative) must remain frozen for at
least 6 months before it can be used. This is done so that the donor can be
tested twice over 6 months to ensure that he does not have any number of
infectious diseases, including the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).3