Having a baby is one goal that many couples aspire to achieve. Nothing compares to bringing new life to the world. Unfortunately, some people have problems with their fertility, making it difficult for them to have a baby. In the past, this meant the end of the line for their dreams of raising a family. However, modern technology now gives couples multiple fertility options. One of the most popular methods is artificial insemination, which is relatively straightforward, effective, and safe. This technology was first developed to breed livestock but now adopted for use in humans.
What Is Artificial Insemination?
During sex, natural insemination occurs when a man ejaculates semen into his partner’s vagina. Sperm cells then travel upwards through the rest of the female reproductive tract until they reach and fertilize the egg cell. Artificial insemination uses equipment to deposit sperm into the female reproductive tract, but the insemination site needs choosing so that the sperm have to travel less. This technique increases the chances of fertilization.
There are two types of artificial insemination, and the processes are depending on the site where they place the sperm cells. Intracervical insemination, or ICI, places the sperm cells on the cervix, while intrauterine insemination, or IUI, puts them in the uterus
What Conditions Can Artificial Insemination Be Used For?
Artificial insemination is useful for bypassing several fertility conditions that would otherwise impede fertilization. As an example, a couple that cannot perform sexual intercourse but otherwise produces healthy sperm and egg cells is a right candidate for artificial insemination.
For males, artificial insemination is useful for low sperm counts or low sperm motility, which is when the sperm cells are too weak to reach the egg cell by reasonable means. For females, artificial insemination is useful when the woman’s cervical mucus, which the sperm have to pass through, is too unfavorable for sperm survival.
Another condition that can warrant artificial insemination is endometriosis, which is when cells that form the inner lining of the uterus start growing elsewhere. This condition can lower fertility rates, but artificial insemination can be used to bypass any diseased areas.
Sometimes, a woman may be allergic to specific components of semen.
In this case, artificial insemination allows the sperm to be processed to remove any allergens.
Subfertility caused by other factors, such as radiation treatment, can make it hard to conceive. Artificial insemination can offset the difficulty, which makes conception easier.
In general, artificial insemination suggests for couples who fail to conceive despite having one year of unprotected sex. If the woman is at the age of and above 35 years old, six months of no pregnancy can already be enough to warrant artificial insemination.
Artificial insemination is required if a couple wishes to use a sperm donor. This technique might be useful if the male has a genetic disorder that he does not want to pass on to his child. Same-sex couples can also conceive using artificial insemination using donated sperm.
What Should You Expect To Do For The Procedure?
Timing is a crucial part of artificial insemination, as the depositing of sperm should as a woman ovulates. To do the procedure, there is an ovulation testing kit given to the woman, which can be used to predict when she will release an egg. She may also be asked to undergo regular ultrasounds and temperature measurements to confirm if she has ovulated or not. In some cases, she might be asked to take medications, such as Clomid, to make her ovulate.
Once they set the ovulation date, there is another date set for sperm collection. If the sperm is to come from the male, he will usually be asked to avoid sexual activities for around two to five days before the collection day. This precaution ensures that sperm counts are sufficiently high once they did the collection. During the collection day itself, the male will be asked to collect semen with a sterile container. Due to the limited lifespan of sperm cells outside the body, the collection is preferably done in the clinic unless the couple lives up to an hour away from the facility.
Semen collection is commonly through masturbation or a collection condom used during sexual intercourse. If sexual activity is challenging, surgical sperm aspiration can be used to extract sperm cells directly from the male reproductive tract.
For ICI, they usually conduct the procedure in an office.
A doctor injects the collected semen into the vagina, near the cervix, using a special syringe. Aside from a needle, a cervical cap can be used to keep the sperm on the cervical opening for a set amount of time.
During this time, the woman is told to lie down for 15 to 30 minutes, allowing sperm sufficient time to travel to the uterus. After around two weeks, a pregnancy test is conducted to see if the procedure was successful.
For IUI, the same steps apply, but additional procedures are done to process the collected semen. The sperm cells are washed, removing some proteins and other components which might hinder successful fertilization. Washing also makes the sperm cells more concentrated. The sperm cells are then placed inside the uterus using a catheter. A speculum is used to keep the vagina open during this procedure.
How Successful Is The Procedure?
The ICI procedure has a success rate of around 37.9% after six treatments. For the same number of treatments, the IUI procedure has a success rate of 40.5%. The higher success rate of IUI attributes to the additional preparation steps done on the sperm cells, as well as the placement of the cells nearer to the egg cell.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Some cramping and light bleeding can sometimes occur during the insemination procedure, but overall, the process is painless. Infection is sporadic if the system conducted is in a professional clinical setting; it is still possible. The vagina serves to protect the rest of the female reproductive tract from infection, so bypassing it can lead to some risk.
If the woman is made to ovulate using Clomid or is taking other fertility medication, there is a significantly higher chance of having twins or triplets. It should be accounted for when planning for a family. A pregnancy with multiple fetuses has a higher risk.
Rarely, the medications used to stimulate ovulation can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome or OHSS. The ovaries swell due to overstimulation, causing bloating and abdominal pain. Rarely, dehydration and shortness of breath can occur. Severe cases will need hospital admittance.
Are There Other Alternatives?
If artificial insemination is insufficient, the couple may consider in vitro fertilization or IVF. This procedure involves extracting both sperm and egg cells from the couple. As the name implies, propagation is in the laboratory under controlled conditions. The most viable fertilized eggs implanted in the uterus of the female.
Doctors usually recommend artificial insemination for up to six cycles only. Additional treatments after this point are unlikely to yield results. At this point, people generally consider IVF.