As one of the most commonly used assisted fertility procedures, artificial insemination has helped many people around the world create the families they’ve always wanted.
Although it may seem like a modern technique, artificial insemination has actually been in existence since the early 1900s. But even if the procedure has always taken the same basic approach to helping women become pregnant, that approach has become more advanced and precise over the years.
Here at Rodeo Drive Women's Health Center, we’ve helped countless couples and single women fulfill their family dreams with artificial insemination, and we know that a little information can go a long way in helping you know what to expect.
With that in mind, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about artificial insemination.
Artificial insemination, also known as intrauterine insemination (IUI), involves the insertion of a thin, flexible catheter through the cervix to inject washed sperm directly into the uterus.
During natural insemination (sexual intercourse) many sperm die before they ever reach the uterus. Having more sperm in the uterus during ovulation makes it more likely that some will successfully make their way to the fallopian tubes, where egg fertilization occurs.
Artificial insemination is often used by couples who have tried to conceive naturally for at least one year without success. It’s often the go-to treatment for couples struggling with male fertility problems, including low sperm counts, decreased sperm motility, or ejaculation dysfunction disorders.
Artificial insemination can also help couples with certain female fertility problems, particularly cervical abnormalities that make it harder for sperm to pass into the uterus naturally.
Single women and same-sex female couples may also turn to artificial insemination and donor sperm to achieve pregnancy without a male partner.
An egg is only viable for 24 hours after it’s released, so artificial insemination is always timed to coincide as close to ovulation as possible. Ideally, it should take place within six hours on either side of ovulation, as determined by an at-home ovulation predictor kit.
For women who receive fertility medication injections to stimulate ovulation, artificial insemination is typically done 24-48 hours after the injection.
For women who aren’t using donor sperm, we provide a private room where a partner’s sperm sample can be collected in a sterile cup just prior to the insemination procedure. Before the sperm can be injected into the uterus, however, it must be “washed,” or prepared.
Sperm washing involves putting the sample in a test tube, mixing it with a washing medium, and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate sperm cells from semen. This process also separates motile sperm from nonmotile sperm, which helps create a high concentration of viable, healthy, active sperm to increase the chances of pregnancy.
Donor sperm goes through the same process.
Artificial insemination is somewhat similar to having a Pap smear, in that it’s quick and fairly painless. Like a Pap smear, artificial insemination requires the insertion of a speculum first so that the cervix is visible. After that, it takes about a minute to insert the thin, flexible catheter and inject the concentrated sperm solution.
Catheter insertion and removal don’t usually cause much discomfort, as the cervix is slightly relaxed during ovulation.
Although the cervix doesn’t remain open following the procedure, it’s a good idea to stay on the table and relax for 15-30 minutes afterward. To increase the chances of implantation, it’s also a good idea to avoid heavy lifting and reduce aerobic activity for about two weeks.
Because the cervix doesn’t remain open, the injected sperm won’t fall out. Even so, some women experience increased wetness after the procedure. This can occur when the catheter loosens cervical mucus, prompting it to leak out.
Implantation can occur anytime within 6-12 days of a well-timed artificial insemination procedure, or one that falls very close to ovulation. The first pregnancy test takes place two weeks after the procedure.
Your own chances of artificial insemination success depend on your age, exact infertility diagnosis, reproductive history, and overall health. If you’re past the age of 35, fertility drugs can increase your chances of success.
To find out how we can help make your family dreams a reality, call our Beverly Hills office or schedule an appointment online today. We’re ready to answer your questions about our fertility services.