Is Human Artificial Insemination Right for You

Human artificial insemination is one of the options available to couples who are having trouble conceiving. This procedure can be successful with certain types of infertility and it's minimally invasive for the woman.

Infertility Testing
Before deciding on artificial insemination, you and your partner should undergo testing to find out why you are having difficulty conceiving. Some of the tests for women might include:

  • Hysterosalpingography, a test done under general anesthesia that involves injecting fluids into the uterus and then x-raying the area to look for blockages or problems relating to the uterus or fallopian tubes.
  • Laparoscopy, a test done under general anesthesia where a small viewing device called a laparoscope in inserted into the abdomen to help a physician examine the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. This test can help determine if endometriosis, scarring or blockages are contributing to infertility.
  • Hormone Testing, to check the levels of pituitary hormones, thyroid hormones and hormones involved in ovulation.
  • Ovarian Reserve Testing, a test that looks at how viable the eggs are after ovulation. This test is often done in conjunction with hormone testing.

Tests for men include

  • Hormone Testing, to check the levels of testosterone and other hormones.
  • Semen Analysis, to look for abnormalities regarding sperm and sperm count.
  • Transrectal and Scrotal Ultrasound, a test using ultrasound to check for problems related to ejaculation.

Artificial insemination is an option when

  • the man has a low sperm count
  • the man's sperm has low motility or mobility
  • the reason for infertility cannot be explained
  • the woman has a sperm allergy that causes her to develop antibodies to the man's sperm

Artificial insemination tends to be most successful in cases of a low sperm count or reduced sperm motility. When infertility can't be explained, it's difficult to determine whether the procedure will be successful, something to consider before beginning treatments.

Artificial insemination using donor sperm is an option if the man does not produce enough sperm, if the man has a genetic disorder that the couple does not want to risk passing on to the next generation or if a woman is looking to become pregnant without a partner.

Artificial Insemination Procedures
If the woman is going to use her partner's sperm for artificial insemination, both partners need to take steps for artificial insemination to be successful.

Women will probably need to take a fertility drug at the start of each menstrual cycle to release more than one egg during ovulation. This increases the chance of pregnancy, but it can also increase the chance of a multiple birth.

Women may need ultrasounds or home ovulation detectors to determine the precise moment of ovulation. Drugs to assist ovulation may also be prescribed.

Men will have to provide sperm at a specific time. Before insemination, the sperm will go through a washing process, which uses a centrifuge to remove sperm that are not mobile enough, particles that could inhibit fertilization and additional seminal fluids. This process leaves the healthiest and most mobile sperm for artificial insemination. The sperm used during artificial insemination will be at a higher concentration, making conception more likely.

Your physician will then inject the sperm through the cervix into the uterus in a procedure that generally takes about an hour or less. It can take three to six cycles of artificial insemination before the woman becomes pregnant. Conception rates are partly dependent on age, the natural fertility of the woman and whether fertility drugs are used.

Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages of using artificial insemination using a partner's sperm include

  • a lower risk of having multiples than in other procedures
  • a lower cost than other types of infertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization
  • a more natural, less invasive procedure

Disadvantages include

  • the need for exact timing
  • expenses that may not be covered by health insurance
  • an uncertain success rate in cases of unexplained infertility

Using Donor Sperm
If you are planning on using a donor, make sure that the clinic you choose has not only general information about the donor's appearance, but medical and genetic information as well. Keep in mind that you will not have any information about the donor's personality or temperament. Using donor sperm will also add to your overall costs.

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