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Insemination Procedures For Infertility

Treatment Overview

An insemination procedure uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter) to put sperm into the woman's reproductive tract. For some couples with infertility problems, insemination can improve the chances of pregnancy.

Donor sperm are used if the male partner is sterile, has an extremely low sperm count, or carries a risk of genetic disease. A woman planning to conceive without a male partner can also use donor sperm.

Prior to insemination, the sperm usually are washed and concentrated (placing unwashed sperm directly into the uterus can cause severe cramps). Concentration is accomplished by selectively choosing highly active, healthy sperm that are more capable of fertilizing an egg.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the placing of sperm into a woman's uterus when she is ovulating. This is achieved with a thin flexible tube (catheter) that is passed into the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus.

IUI can use sperm from the male partner or a donor. It is often combined with superovulation medicine to increase the number of available eggs.

Artificial insemination (AI)

Artificial insemination (AI) is another name for intrauterine insemination but can also refer to placing sperm in a woman's vagina or cervix when she is ovulating. The sperm then travel into the fallopian tubes, where they can fertilize the woman's egg or eggs.

AI can be done with sperm from the male partner or a donor, and can be combined with superovulation.

Use of donor sperm

If donor sperm are needed, you can choose a known or anonymous donor who is willing to provide sperm.

  • Donor sperm from a male who isn't a sex partner (as from a sperm bank, friend, or relative) must remain frozen for at least 6 months before it can be used. This is done so that the donor can be tested twice over 6 months to ensure that he does not have any number of infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Frozen sperm are less effective than fresh sperm.

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