Here's What You Should Know About Artificial Insemination
If you want to get pregnant, but need to make it happen in an "unconventional" way, you might find yourself considering artificial insemination. While this procedure is often done in a clinic or hospital setting, if money is tight or you want your experience to be more intimate or personal, you might wonder, "Can I artificially inseminate myself?" Turns out, the answer is a tad more complicated than someone trying to conceive might think.
To find out more about the benefits and risks of at-home artificial insemination, Romper spoke with Dr. John Rapisarda, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois.
The short answer, according to Rapisarda, is yes: it's absolutely possible to artificially inseminate yourself. In fact, in recent years and for a variety of reasons — like cost, infertility, and being in a lesbian relationship — more and more families are now choosing to take conception into their own hands, procuring sperm from sperm banks, donors, or their partners, and inseminating themselves at home.
Artificial insemination — placing fresh or previously frozen sperm into a woman's uterus or vagina — has become a popular way for lesbian couples to get pregnant, per Fertility Authority, an online source for male and female fertility information. While the procedure is offered at fertility clinics and OB-GYN offices, many couples opt to do intracervical insemination (ICI, in which the sperm is injected with a needleless syringe into the vagina and near the cervix) in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, purchasing donor sperm from a sperm bank or using fresh sperm from a known donor for a less stressful and more intimate experience.
"In addition to same-sex couples and single women, heterosexual couples can also do insemination with donor sperm when the male partner’s sperm quality is so poor that insemination or IVF are not options," Rapisarda tells Romper.
If you don't have your own sperm, or someone in your life who is willing to donate theirs to you, tore-bought is fine. "To obtain donor sperm, patients can work directly with their fertility center if they have a donor sperm program, or they can use a donor sperm agency," Rapisarda says.
Do-it-yourself insemination is pretty straightforward, according to Fertility Authority. Sperm banks provide a syringe for placing the sperm next to your cervix, on or around the time of ovulation. After you inseminate yourself, it's recommended that you rest with your hips in an elevated position for 30 minutes. Another option is purchasing an at-home insemination kit, which includes a cervical cap to be filled with semen and inserted next to your cervix for six hours.
Before you attempt DIY insemination, though, Rapisarda warns that the practice might present health risks, unless you take appropriate measures. "It is important that donor sperm is acquired from a reputable sperm bank or a fully screened known donor to ensure the health and safety of the woman carrying the pregnancy as well as the potential future child," he says.
This process can provide you with important health and genetic information, says Rapisarda, so you shouldn't skip it and attempt to procure sperm online. "The screening process for donor sperm is extensive and can include a health questionnaire, physical exam, a thorough sperm evaluation, as well as testing for medical, genetic and infectious diseases," he explains. "Some donor sperm agencies also do criminal background checks, psychological evaluations and the verification of all educational degrees."
Even if you are able to access healthy sperm, Rapisarda says couples who want to try at-home insemination should know that it may not be as effective as an in office procedure. "During the process of preparing for insemination, a physician will evaluate the woman’s reproductive health and address any issues that can impact fertility potential. Sperm is also 'washed' so the best quality sperm are concentrated for insemination," he says. "A woman’s reproductive cycle is closely monitored to ensure proper timing and concentrated sperm is placed directly into the uterus, further boosting conception odds."
Additionally, the College of Family Physicians of Canada recommends that people hoping to do insemination at home receive preconception health care, including taking folic acid, getting a Pap smear, and screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. It's also recommended that any donor be screened by a sperm bank, receive a physical exam, and be tested for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, as they can be transmitted by semen used for the procedure.
Before you call your local sperm bank, or consider using a friend's sperm, you might want to talk to a lawyer first, too, just to make sure you know the ins and outs of the law in your state. As reproductive law expert Melissa Brisman told The New Republic in Dec 11., 2014, couples who use donor sperm at home might not be protected from legal challenges to their custody as they would be if the procedure was done by a medical professional.
"If a known donor is used for insemination, it is important to consult a reproductive law attorney to draw up a legal agreement between the parties before a pregnancy is established," Rapisarda tells Romper.
In the end, if you are ready to get pregnant and are willing to do a little medical and legal leg-work first, you might find at-home artificial insemination to be a low cost option for you.
Dr. John Rapisarda, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois.
This article was originally published on