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
Treatment success is strongly influenced by a woman's age (an
aging egg supply decreases pregnancy rate, and miscarriage risk increases with
For couples with unexplained infertility, intrauterine insemination can improve the chances of becoming pregnant when combined with superovulation treatment.1
If a man's sperm are absent, low in quantity, or poor in quality, intrauterine insemination may slightly improve the chances—by up to 10%—that the female partner will become pregnant.2
Insemination combined with superovulation increases the risk of
multiple pregnancy (conceiving more than one fetus). Multiple pregnancy is high-risk for mother and
fetuses. To learn more, 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 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.
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 needed, 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 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Frozen sperm are less effective than fresh
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Bhattacharya S, et al. (2010). Female infertility, search date
October 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Male infertility. In
Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th
ed., pp. 1249–1292. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of
||March 12, 2014