What is artificial insemination?
Artificial insemination is a fertility technique involving the injection of sperm directly into a woman’s body (cervix, uterus or Fallopian tubes). Most women undergo an intrauterine insemination (IUI) performed by medical staff, which is when sperm is placed into the uterus (intrauterine) using a thin catheter.
Another method is to perform an at-home insemination, which means that the insemination occurs outside a fertility clinic (usually in the recipient’s home) and is often performed by the recipient herself or her partner. This technique involves placing the sperm close to the cervix and not in the uterus. There are several ways of performing an at-home insemination, such as the turkey baster method.
Artificial insemination needs to be performed during the most fertile window of the cycle, just before and during ovulation. Fertility drugs may be used to boost ovulation and improve chances of pregnancy. IUI and at-home insemination can be performed with the use of the male partner’s sperm or donor sperm.
What are artificial insemination success rates?
The success rate of artificial insemination depends on the woman’s age, the male partner/donor’s age, their fertility, sperm quality, whether fertility drugs are used (i.e. ovulation induction).
In general, artificial insemination success rates are lower than those of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Success rates of IUI after one cycle are as follows:
• Women under 35 have a 10-20 percent chance of getting pregnant;
• Women aged between 35 and 40 have a 10 percent chance;
• Women over 40 have a 2-5 percent chance.
If you are over 35, in vitro fertilization might be a better solution, depending on your fertility.
As for at-home insemination success rates, there are currently no national statistics available. Success rates depend on the age of the recipient and the donor, as well as on the technique used, whether the insemination is performed with the baster turkey method, with a cervical cap, whether you’re using fresh or frozen sperm, etc.
How can I increase the artificial insemination success rate?
Start by checking your fertility
If you’re trying to conceive (especially if you’re over 35), it’s best to pay a visit to your GP first. They will check if everything is all right and whether there are any fertility issues. Depending on your personal situation, your doctor may recommend a treatment or the use of fertility drugs to boost your chances of conception with artificial insemination.
Get the sperm tested
Men donating sperm in sperm banks are thoroughly screened before being accepted as a sperm donor. Therefore, if you’re choosing a donor from a sperm bank, you can be certain that their semen will be of good quality.
If you’re selecting a known donor, whether he is a friend or a sperm donor you’ve met online, be sure to check that their semen is of good quality and that they are not carrying any sexually transmitted diseases, infections or genetic abnormalities. It’s best to ask them to provide you with documentation to ensure that they won’t put your health and your future baby’s health at risk.
You also need to know how fertile they are. One way to find out is to get information about any potential previous donations or whether they have any children. Additionally, ask them to provide you with a male fertility test in order to check their sperm quality.
Track your ovulation
The right timing is essential. You need to know exactly when you’re ovulating to perform the insemination at the optimum moment of your cycle, therefore improving your chances of conception.
To find out when you’re ovulating, you can use, for instance, an at-home ovulation predictor kit. You can also track your basal body temperature with a thermometer every day.
Once you’ve found out a bit more about your fertile window, you can time the insemination and make arrangements with the sperm donor or your partner. Moreover, it’s best to perform the insemination during your ovulation day and/or within the two days before ovulation (sperm can live up to 72 hours inside your body).
Opt for IUI over ICI
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) has higher success rates than intracervical insemination (ICI), also called intravaginal insemination. Sperm gets closer to the egg with IUI (sperm is injected directly into the uterus, not just placed next to the cervix).
Prefer fresh sperm
Fresh sperm is more effective than sperm that has been frozen and thawed, according to several studies. The freezing and thawing process might damage the sperm membrane, even though it’s important to note that many women do still get pregnant using frozen sperm.
Moreover, the lifespan of fresh semen is up to 72 hours in a woman’s body, if inseminated vaginally. This means that if the insemination is performed a day or two before ovulation, there is still a chance of pregnancy occurring. On the contrary, the lifespan of frozen sperm is about 24 hours when inseminated vaginally. To increase the likelihood of pregnancy, it’s crucial to know exactly when you’re ovulating.
Use fertility drugs
If you have fertility issues or if you’re over 35, your doctor might recommend you use fertility drugs. Their purpose is to boost your ovulation by increasing the production of eggs, and therefore, increasing your chances of pregnancy. Most women who take fertility drugs while undergoing IUI (usually Clomid), become pregnant within 4 to 5 cycles. When Clomid does not work, you might be advised to have injectable medications during 3 to 6 cycles of intrauterine insemination.
Sperm should be washed
Washing and preparing sperm before use can also improve chances of success. The purpose of this procedure is to remove chemicals from the sperm, as these toxins may provoke allergic reactions in some women. Furthermore, washing sperm serves to separate the weaker spermatozoa from the stronger, as well as to ensure a good volume.
Rest after performing the insemination
Although experts are still debating this topic, researchers have recently found that resting following the procedure might help your chances. The study involved the participation of 400 couples using IUI, separated into two groups. The results highlighted that women who rested for 15 minutes after performing IUI had a 10% higher chance of becoming pregnant than women who got up after the procedure. Conception success rates of women who remained laying down went up to 27%, while those who got up right after the procedure had only a 17% chance of getting pregnant.
Try several times
It’s more than likely that you won’t get pregnant on the first cycle. You’ll probably have to try several times before finally becoming pregnant. If, after several cycles of artificial insemination, there are still no signs of pregnancy, it may be best to try other methods such as IVF.