In the quest to conceive a child, some couples are faced with the inevitable concern of infertility. Before a physician will evaluate a couple with the question of infertility they must have been actively trying to conceive for 18 months. However, that number is often lower if the woman is over age 32. Many reproductive specialists will schedule appointments and began evaluations for women over the age of 32 if they have been trying to conceive for six months.
Because the reproductive cycle in women is incredibly complex and because in order to become pregnant everything must be right at the right time, it isn’t unusual for some couples to have a problem with fertility. There are many different types of infertility treatments and artificial insemination is one of them.
This technique is used to treat only certain kinds of infertility, when the problem exists in either the man or the woman. The procedure is accomplished by injecting sperm directly into a woman’s cervix, fallopian tubes or uterus in order to make the distance for the sperm to travel shorter and bypass any possible structural obstructions in the woman’s anatomy.
Ideally, artificial insemination makes pregnancy possible where it wasn’t for the couple before. The most common form of artificial insemination is intrauterine insemination, where the sperm is placed directly into the uterus and makes its way upstream to the fallopian tubes where it hopefully meets up with an egg.
This type of treatment for infertility is popular for men who have very low sperm counts or whose sperm isn’t strong enough to swim through the cervix and up through the fallopian tubes. It is also an option for women who have endometriosis or structural abnormalities of the reproductive tract which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.
Women who have unreceptive cervical mucus are also good candidates. This is a situation in which the mucus surrounding the cervix is hostile to sperm and prevents it from getting into the uterus and the fallopian tubes. By using artificial insemination doctors allow the sperm to skip through the cervical mucus entirely.
Another artificial insemination procedure will deposit donor sperm is directly into the cervix. This is usually relatively quick and often painless. The procedure is typically less costly then intrauterine insemination. Single mothers who wish to conceive using a sperm bank may opt for this procedure.
Married women may also choose to have donor sperm artificially inseminated if insemination by her husband’s sperm is not an option due to male factor infertility. This technique offers an avenue for couples who are faced with infertility to become pregnant and have children. Using donor sperm, couples are able to have genetic testing and screening which reduces the likelihood of passing along a genetic disorder.
While artificial insemination is not as technologically advanced, nor have the same success rates that other infertility treatments have, there are some specific benefits. Most clinics that offer artificial insemination are self-funded and operate on a commercial basis and insurance companies do not often pay for artificial insemination. All of this information translates into a procedure that may be less costly than other infertility treatments but could require a significant cash outlay in order to successfully bring about a pregnancy.
To improve the chances of becoming pregnant, the reproductive specialists will often have the woman take fertility drugs before undergoing the procedure. These medications are started near the beginning of the menstrual cycle in order to stimulate the ovaries to develop several mature eggs for fertilization instead of the one that normally develops.
Women will use an ovulation detection kit to determine the correct timing which will be confirmed through the use of ultrasound in the physician’s office. Sometimes the doctor will give medication to induce ovulation. Once ovulation has occurred, the partner will produce a sperm sample which is then washed. This process concentrates the heartiest sperm into a small amount of fluid which the doctor then inserts through a catheter directly on the cervix, in the uterus or into the fallopian tubes.
The entire process usually takes less than an hour and, depending upon the cause of infertility, most women may undergo three to six cycles of artificial insemination before getting pregnant or trying another treatment.
Success rates depend upon the woman’s overall health, the partner’s fertility, the age of the couple, whether or not fertility drugs are used prior to the procedure and a host of other criteria and factors. Overall rates range between five and 20% of becoming pregnant with each cycle of artificial insemination. (1)
(1) BabyCenter.com: Fertility Treatment: Artificial Insemination (IUI)