What is artificial insemination: Uses, Procedure and Risks

Many couples dream of becoming parents and starting their own families, but the journey of getting there is not as easy for some as it is for others. While some women go through complications in pregnancy, others don’t even get a chance to conceive without some medical assistance. This is where the many types of fertility treatments come into play, helping prospective fathers and mothers to be able to have a child.

One such treatment is artificial insemination or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) where your partner’s sperm are clinically placed inside your uterus to ease the fertilization process. This not only increases your chances of getting pregnant due to more sperm reaching the egg, but also expedites the process. Artificial insemination in humans allows the sperm to get a better chance rather than actually having artificial fertilization. Since this technology often comes as a miraculous intervention for those who want to be mothers, it is best to understand it better.

Illustration of what happens in artificial insemination procedure.

Who all can use artificial insemination?

The predominant reasons to get what is also popularly known as an artificial pregnancy are the low sperm count and decreased sperm mobility. To tackle these issues that cause hindrances in you getting pregnant, we use such fertility treatments. Here are the cases where IUI is used and can be helpful:

  • Where women suffer from unknown fertility issues.
  • When you have a hostile cervix or have troubles with cervical mucus, something that prevents the sperm from reaching the fallopian tube on their own.
  • When the male partner suffers from ejaculation dysfunction or even erectile dysfunction.
  • Cervical scar tissue can also reduce the mobility of sperm and lead to difficulties in getting pregnant.
  • In mild cases of endometriosis, artificial fertilization can be very helpful if the woman is unable to conceive naturally.
  • Very rare cases of women being allergic to the proteins in the semen have shown to be a problem for pregnancy, but this can be avoided with IUI.
  • People who have had radiation therapy and other treatments that affect fertility are also helped by artificial insemination.

Ultimately, be it infertility, medical conditions or something else, your doctor will recommend what is best for you. Don’t hesitate in telling your doctor if you are trying to conceive for a long time and are still unable to do so. He/ she will provide you with the best course of action possible.

Who all are not recommended artificial insemination?

While Intrauterine Insemination can work wonders for a lot of people, there are also specific cases where it is not recommended. Here are the times when the doctor warns you off of artificial fertilization:

  • When you have any severe disease or condition of the fallopian tube which may either further hinder conception or lead to an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Women who have had a history of pelvic infections are also advised against IUI.
  • While this treatment can help mild endometriosis, it is really not the answer in the more severe cases.
  • There might also be other specific medical conditions that you might suffer from which will prevent you from using IUI for getting pregnant.

How does artificial insemination in humans work?

Many of you may be wary of using fertility assistance, especially one with the word “artificial” in its name. It is not something to be afraid of or be too anxious about, but we know that it is not easy to let go of such fears either. To be truly ready for this procedure, you first have to understand how it works.

The simplest explanation of the series of events is the collection of the semen sample and then placing it in your uterus through medical methods. Since the work is largely divided into two stages, see the detailed explanation of each stage below:

1. Preparation of the sample

While in most cases, the sperm is collected from the partner, there are also cases where that does not happen. When your partner’s sperm fertility is low, you may need to choose a sperm donor instead. However, this option is mostly utilised by single women wanting to be mothers or by same-sex couples.
The doctor collects the sperm and they put into a frozen sperm bank along with some chemicals that protect the sperm from dying while they are frozen. These are the usual ways that assist in getting the sperm collection:

  • Assisting devices that provide stimulation for ejaculation.
  • Masturbation
  • Collection condom that collects the semen during sex.
  • A small surgical procedure to directly collect the semen from male reproductive organs.
A sperm bank with a collection of frozen semen for artificial insemination

2. Placing the sample in the womb

One of the prerequisites of having artificial insemination is that it has to happen in your fertile period in the ovulation cycle. The actual procedure does not actually cut you open and implant the sperm, it is much simpler instead. 

The doctor or fertility specialist uses a thin catheter to put the sperm in your womb while keeping your vagina walls open. Through the cervix, this catheter enters the uterus and the sperm are pushed inside. For making your chances of getting pregnant even higher, make sure that you are using an accurate ovulation calendar. If you get pregnant with the help of IUI, you might start noticing the early signs of pregnancy soon enough!

What are the major risks in artificial pregnancy?

Similar to any other fertility treatments like IVF or medications, Intrauterine Insemination comes with its own set of potential risks that you should be aware of beforehand. Listed below are some of the most common of these risks:

  1. When you use other fertility drugs or treatment along with IUI, the chances of having twins or multiple pregnancy is higher. This can turn out to be a risk for women who are not ready or whose bodies are not ready to nurture more than one child.
  2. In accordance with the above-mentioned point, multiple pregnancy can also raise the chances of having miscarriages, complications of premature birth. 
  3. When you combine IUI with the usage of ovulation stimulating fertility drugs, a phenomenon called the Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) occurs. Here, your ovaries may swell and cause problems for your pregnancy if the condition escalates without any monitoring.

It is best to be alert after getting an artificial insemination treatment and be vigilant for any signs of trouble. If you experience abdominal pains, spotting, bloating or any unusual pregnancy symptoms, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.

A couple discussing the risks of artificial pregnancy with their doctor.

How successful is artificial insemination in humans?

No matter the artificial insemination cost, the ultimate success of the procedure depends on a number of things. These include the reasons for infertility, the age of the mother, the usage of other fertility treatments and many more. While no one can give you a full guarantee of getting pregnant, you should know that monthly IUI treatments can reach a success rate as high as 20%. 

But if you are looking to compare it to other more expensive options like IVF, you will find that they have higher success rates than this. While it is you and your partner’s decision to make, take your doctor or gynaecologist’s advice as well.

What does artificial insemination cost?

As compared to other fertility treatments, artificial fertilization costs are lower and more affordable for young couples. A single cycle of this treatment costs about INR 3000 with additional costs of ultrasounds and other tests. The total artificial insemination cost can usually be an average INR 10000-15000, which is exponentially cheaper than an IVF. As is the case with many other medical treatments, the cost of this procedure too, varies in different cities in the country.

Make sure that you research about the doctors and the facilities beforehand so that there are no additional problems in your journey of motherhood.

Along with all the mental and financial preparations that you need before going for an IUI, you also need to be healthy to be able to carry a future pregnancy to term. To have a healthy pregnancy, make sure that you are eating the right foods and making the correct lifestyle choices. All the efforts that you will make for this will be worth it when you finally see that positive sign on the pregnancy test. So even if the inability to naturally conceive right now is causing you despair, know that this is not a full-stop, there are other ways to reach your desired family life!

FAQs about Artificial Insemination

Q1. What are the side effects of artificial fertilization?

Ans. Although there are many pregnancy myths regarding the involvement of fertility treatments like artificial insemination in increasing the chances of birth defects in kids, they are not true. However, there are some side-effects that have been observed in multiple cases over the years and they are:

  • Even when the artificial fertilization is done in a very sterile procedure, there are times that women have suffered from pelvic infections or inflammations after it is done.
  • Some of you may not consider it a definitive side-effect but the chances of having twins or multiple children are higher in IUI as compared to a natural pregnancy. For those who are not wanting or capable to nurture twins, this can definitely count as a side-effect.
  • One common side-effect that is not that harmful to you is experiencing cramps or mild vaginal bleeding after you go through the procedure. It is usually not a cause for concern but be sure to inform your doctor about it anyway.

Q2. Are there any alternatives to artificial insemination?

Ans. The need for alternative options to artificial insemination arises when this method is not working out for you. If a woman is still unable to get pregnant even after going through 6 cycles of IUI treatment, it is time for them to stop and look for other ways. The reason this happens usually lies with some underlying fertility issues that have not been identified yet. For example, if you have problems or hostile conditions in the fallopian tube, artificial insemination will not be able to help you there. In this case, IVF is the better alternative option.

Q3. Can you do artificial insemination at home?

Ans. Yes, it is possible to do an artificial insemination procedure at home. At a medical facility, the sperms are implanted in the uterus, but at home, they will be pushed into the cervix instead. Since at-home procedures are not done with professional medical equipment or assistance, they are not recommended. Although there are insemination kits available in the market that can make the task easier, it is still difficult for a woman to do this on her own. The chances of success here are lower and the potential risks higher.

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