Artificial Insemination: how well it works, who it is for and what it entails


Artificial Insemination (AI) – which is also known as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – is the technique of placing sperm directly into the uterus. It is usually one of the first treatments used to assist those who are having difficulty becoming pregnant, because it is a relatively low-tech solution to a range of infertility problems.

How Well Artificial Insemination Treatment Works

During normal intercourse, only a small amount of sperm makes it to the woman’s uterus and into the fallopian tubes where fertilisation takes place. In the artificial insemination procedure, large amounts of the best performing sperm are inserted directly into a woman’s uterus, significantly increasing the chance of fertilisation.

Success rates using the artificial insemination technique vary. Some patient groups – for example, lesbian and single women – can do very well. In general, a healthy woman under the age of 35 can expect a pregnancy rate of between 9% and 15% per cycle – however, this depends on the woman’s age and egg quality and whether her tubes are healthy, as well as on whether the male partner’s sperm count is within normal limits. It is common for a woman to undertake multiple inseminations.

However, where there is a problem with the quality of the sperm, the chance of pregnancy has been found to drop to approximately 10% per cycle, even if artificial insemination is performed following ovarian stimulation. Artificial insemination may never achieve a pregnancy in cases where the sperm count is very low, and in these cases Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – a procedure in which sperm are directly injected into the egg – is always recommended. You can read more about ICSI here

Fertility specialists might try three cycles of artificial insemination, and if these are not successful, recommend more advanced methods such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which – unlike artificial insemination – involves egg collection or IV sedation. You can read more about what IVF treatment entails here

When Is Artificial Insemination Treatment Required?

Artificial insemination is mainly used when timed intercourse or hormonal medications have not worked, or if there are mild problems with the sperm such as a mild sperm abnormality, anti-sperm antibodies or poor motility (the ability of the sperm to move).

It is also used in conjunction with donor sperm by female same sex couples or by women who don’t have a partner. In fact, it has become the most commonly used fertility treatment for lesbian and single women.

However, it is not a suitable treatment for women with severely damaged or blocked fallopian tubes – the treatment options for this are discussed here

In addition, artificial insemination can be used to overcome infertility due to the following conditions:

* physical problems with sexual intercourse – vaginismus may prevent some women from having frequent intercourse;
* ovulation problems, including irregular or absent ovulation often caused by a deficiency in one of the controlling hormones;
* mucos hostility, which may arise as a result of a vaginal infection or the presence of antisperm antibodies in the mucus;
* mild endometriosis, which occurs when the tissue that normally lines the inside of a woman’s uterus grows in other places where it doesn’t belong, such as on the ovaries or fallopian tubes;
* low sperm count – even if the sperm count is low, it can still be used due to the treatment received in the laboratory;
* ejaculation problems due to impotence or paraplegia;
retrograde ejaculation which occurs when the semen goes backwards into the bladder instead of coming out of the penis.

How is Artificial Insemination Done?

In the artificial insemination procedure, warned and washed sperm are introduced into the woman’s uterus through a thin flexible plastic tube which is passed through the cervix. The procedure is done around the time of ovulation to give the best chance of conception. This is performed in two ways at Medfem Fertility Clinic: in a natural cycle without fertility drugs or in a stimulated cycle with fertility drugs.

Artificial insemination can be performed with sperm from a male partner or from a sperm donor. Medfem Fertility Clinic has a large donor insemination program. We have treated single women and lesbian couples for many years, and offer advice in a relaxed, friendly and informal surrounding. Sperm donors are screened for sexually transmittable agents (including HIV) and genetically inherited diseases.

The procedure is usually painless and requires only a few minutes. A few women will experience temporary menstrual-like cramping. All normal activities can be resumed after the procedure.

What are the Risks of Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination – and more specifically the medications that may be required – involve limited risks. One is the risk of multiple pregnancies, which some couples may consider a double blessing instead of a risk, and another is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

The risk of multiple pregnancies is increased as fertility medications can cause more than one follicle to develop. At Medfem Fertility Clinic, our fertility specialists will closely monitor you while you are taking them. If your doctor notices more than three maturing follicles on ultrasound prior to the procedure, the artificial insemination may be cancelled for that treatment cycle. For those having trouble conceiving, having twins may seem like a blessing, but complications such as miscarriage and low birth weight are much more common in twins than in single pregnancies.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a rare but potentially life-threatening medical condition which may occur when your ovaries have been overly stimulated by fertility medications. The ovaries may increase in size and produce large amounts of fluid. It is characterized by pain and bloating in your abdomen. If severe, it can cause problems with breathing or urinating. At Medfem Fertility Clinic, our fertility specialists will closely monitor you while you are taking fertility medication.

What Are the Costs Involved in Artificial Insemination Treatment?

Below are some estimated costs for the common procedures involved in artificial insemination treatment.

* Artificial Insemination – Sperm from male partner: R7,570.00
* Sperm Wash: R1,683.00
* Artificial Insemination – Sperm from Donor: R13,921.00
(Prices valid until December 2019)

However, it is important to understand that this procedure and its costs are part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In addition, the cost will vary from couple to couple based on numerous variables, such as whether fertility medications or donor sperm are required. In addition, more than one treatment cycle may be required.

Read more about the cost of artificial insemination treatment here

Artificial Insemination Treatment Clinics

It is very important to make the right choice when deciding at which fertility clinic you will receive artificial insemination treatment. The road to becoming a parent when you are facing fertility issues can be a tough challenge, not just medically, but also emotionally and financially.

For this reason, you want to ensure you are choosing the right team with the right equipment, experience and technology to help you achieve the pregnancy you dream of.

Read more about the right clinic for artificial insemination treatment here

The First Step

Starting artificial insemination treatment can be a very exciting time, taking you another step closer to becoming parents.

The first step to receiving artificial insemination treatment is as simple as contacting us. To book your initial consultation, click here or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

We look forward to meeting you!

At the first consultation, you will meet one of our four IVF specialists to discuss your medical history, conduct a comprehensive infertility work up, explore the options, and start to plan your journey to parenthood.

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