Understanding Artificial Insemination

As opposed to the common notion, simply having sex does not guarantee a pregnancy. Those movies about one night stand – yeah, not all of them hold true. In fact, in the normal world, people can have just as much luck with achieving conception as they would with other difficult tasks. It can come easy to some, but for others, they have to try again and again.

According to the CDC, 12 or 13 out of every 100 couples are infertile. About 10% of women find it difficult to become pregnant or have trouble staying pregnant. Infertility was cured with the help of prayers and natural therapies in the past but the methods were quite unreliable and new scientific methods were made.

Today, there are various procedures that can help a couple achieve pregnancy. One of the said methods is ‘artificial insemination.

What is Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination is a fertility treatment method used to deliver sperm directly to the cervix or uterus in the hopes of getting pregnant.

When and Why Is It Done?

Artificial insemination is preferred in cases when there is male infertility. For example, if the male partner has very low sperm count or if the sperm is defective with lesser mobility. Such sperm may not be able to swim through the cervix and thus, may not reach the egg in the fallopian tubes.

It can also be done when there issue with female fertility. Especially, in the condition of endometriosis, artificial insemination is preferred. Another condition, where the cervix has “unreceptive cervical mucus” which prevents the sperm from entering the uterus and ovarian tubes. Artificial insemination removes the barrier of cervical plugs and sperm can enter directly.

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Lastly, artificial insemination is also suggested to those patients where the doctor can not diagnose the
underlying cause.


What is the Procedure?

Firstly, the male patient is made to provide the sperm. This is usually done either by collecting the semen sample at home in a provided container or this can also be done privately in a room in the clinic. To ensure that the semen sample has a high sperm count, it is advised that the male patient avoid having sexual intercourse for about a week before providing the sample. Once the semen sample has been ejaculated into the provided container, it is necessary to get the semen sample within 1 hour in the lab so that it can be washed.

The procedure mimics the natural method of ejaculation into the vagina. Regular sexual intercourse causes the penis to ejaculate semen directly in the vagina. The mobile sperm cells in the semen can then travel up the vaginal canal and fuse with the egg. However, sometimes the sperm are not mobile enough or perhaps the position of the uterus or the tilt does not allow the sperm to reach the egg. For this procedure, the sperm are first washed or prepared specially so as to increase their mobility and thus, heighten the chances of achieving pregnancy. The process of “washing” the sperm in a lab removes chemicals in the semen that may cause discomfort for a woman. The sperm are liquefied at room temperature for 30 minutes. A harmless chemical is added to the liquefied sperm. To separate the defective and active sperm, the mixture of sperm and chemical is made to revolve in a centrifuge.

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After separation, the active sperm are placed in a thin tube called a catheter and put through your vagina and cervix into the uterus.

What are the Types of Artificial Insemination?

The procedures for artificial insemination can vary. Two methods opt. One is intrauterine insemination (IUI), whereas the second one is intracervical insemination (ICI). Both methods involve the direct insertion of sperm into a woman’s reproductive system.

Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI):
This method is more common than intra cervical insemination. In intrauterine insemination (IUI), the sperm is inserted directly into the uterus. Medications like FSH are also available to stimulate ovarian follicle growth and increase the chances of conception.

Intra Cervical Insemination (ICI):
Intra cervical insemination is that type of artificial insemination which involves direct insertion of sperm into the cervix (connects the uterus and vagina). In this method, sperm is introduced into the vagina with the help of a special syringe. However, this is not the only method of introduction.

Another method involves the placement of sperm in a special cervical cap which can be inserted into the cervix. This cap will be made to stay in place for some time so the sperm can move upwards and fuse with eggs. To ensure that the sperm is fused with an egg, the female patient is instructed to lie down for about half an hour. This helps the sperm to move upwards.

After half an hour has passed, the female patient can get up and proceed with regular everyday activities. Some women prefer taking special medication to boost the confidence in this procedure. For example, medication like Clomid that but only induces ovulation but the presence of multiple eggs will increase the chances of one getting fused with an egg.

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A week or two after this therapy session, the female patient can opt for a pregnancy test to confirm the success of this procedure. This procedure can also take more than two weeks to show effect.

When Will this Therapy Not Work?
Normally, this method of infertility treatment works like a charm but it might show substandard results in some people. Sometimes a couple might have to try several times before seeing a desirable result, however, in others, there will not be positive results despite repeated sessions. The doctor may advise trying artificial insemination at least three to six times with injectable hormones like FSH as an added boost for success before moving on to another treatment. If there are still no results, the patients can try other methods like in vitro fertilization with either their own eggs or donor eggs.

In cases where either the male or female is older than 35 years, the sperm or egg are impaired, the woman has a very severe case of endometriosis, the ovarian tubes are blocked or damaged due to chronic infection. If the fallopian tubes are blocked, IUI will especially not work.

What are the Adverse Effects of Artificial Insemination?
Artificial insemination is an excellent procedure known for its simplicity. The methods are short. Even though the procedure is invasive, many women compare the procedure similar to a pap smear, i.e. it is not very painful. Women have reported experiencing abdominal cramps and even some light bleeding after or during the procedure.

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