‘Artificial insemination’. It’s a term we hear a lot in Hollywood movies and in conversations across brunch tables, but not many of us are entirely aware of what the process involves and how it differs to other reproductive technologies.
At its most basic level, artificial insemination is a way to treat infertility. It’s a procedure by which sperm – perhaps your partner’s sperm, maybe the sperm of a donor – is inserted into the uterus or cervix with a catheter, as opposed to intercourse.
Artificial insemination differs to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) because fertilisation of the egg occurs inside the uterus, after insertion. In IVF treatments, the egg is fertilised outside the womb and then inserted into the uterus.
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Who is suitable for artificial insemination?
In Australia, it’s recommended a woman consult a fertility specialist if she has not conceived naturally after one year of trying. The doctor will look at factors such as painful or irregular periods, as well as a history of pregnancy and miscarriage.
The specialist will also want to know if the man has suffered a testicular injury, fathered any previous children, or had any developmental problems. The male’s semen will also be tested for sperm count, sperm.
There are conditions such as erectile dysfunction in men and endometriosis in women that can make falling pregnant difficult without intervention, and in these cases, artificial insemination might be an option.
It’s also a procedure commonly used by lesbian couples hoping to have a baby and is the safest option when a male has previously undergone radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
What’s involved in artificial insemination?
First, the sperm is collected through masturbation, surgery, or the use of a ‘collection condom’.
The sperm is “washed” almost immediately after it is collected. According to IVF Australia, this is done to increase the concentration of motile sperm.