Artificial Insemination Tips

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How is donor sperm used in artificial insemination?

Donor Sperm and Artificial Insemination

Sperm is a necessary component for reproduction. There are times when a man is unable to utilize his own sperm, either due to medical conditions which limit sperm production or quality, or due to hereditary diseases he does not want to perpetuate.

In such cases, donor sperm can be utilized to achieve pregnancy through the use of artificial insemination - a type of assistive reproductive technology which involves the use of donated sperm. Sperm donation is the key to conceiving for couples and single women who would otherwise be unable to have a child.

Like egg donation, each sperm donor is evaluated prior to the acceptance of the donation. The sperm is then tested, prepared and concentrated, prior to being utilized, to ensure that viable sperm are being used to aid in successful conception.

The laws vary from state to state with regards to the legal rights or responsibilities of sperm donors, so it is best to check with a Fertility Specialist in your area before proceeding with artificial insemination through sperm donation.

What is the process for becoming a sperm donor?

Becoming a Sperm Donor

Without sperm donors, may infertile couples and single women could not achieve their dream of parenthood. As with egg donation, the donation of sperm provides a means for conception for couples who would otherwise be unable to have a child.

As with egg donors and surrogates, men wishing to become sperm donors must undergo medical testing to ensure that they are healthy and have an adequate and quality sperm supply. Additionally, the sperm is tested for transmissible diseases prior to being utilized.

For men who opt to donate sperm, there are general criteria that must be met:

  • most sperm donors are between 18 and 35, when the sperm is most plentiful
  • must pass a health screen and blood testing
  • sperm must be in good health and supply, without physical defects or diseases
  • the man must be able to commit to the donation, which involves several trips to the donation center for testing and collection
  • ability to provide health history for both sides of the family

Contact your local Fertility Clinic or Sperm Donation Center for more information about sperm donation, risks and complications and legal ramifications.

What are my chances of success using artificial insemination?

Success Rates of Artificial Insemination

Since there are several different types of artificial insemination, each carries with it, different rates for success. Of the primary types of assisted reproductive technologies, the average success rates are:

  • intrauterine insemination (fertilization) - fertilization by injection of sperm into the uterus - success rate: up to 90% of couples usually conceive within the first 6 cycles or treatments, making an average success rate of 15% for each treatment
  • intra-fallopian insemination - fertilization by injection sperm directly into the fallopian tubes - success rate: average 30%
  • in vitro fertilization - fertilization of egg by sperm in a test tube or petri dish - success rate: average 30% success in achieving pregnancy, but once pregnant, the successful live birth rate was an average of 83%
Overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Report, the average live birth rate for ART is 36%, which is actually down from previous years. This may represent ART attempts on couples who may have been declined, in earlier years, due to the severity of their infertility problems, or the advanced age of women seeking treatment, since fertility and the ability to carry to term tends to decrease in women over the age of 35.

Additionally, live birth rates vary between frozen and fresh donor sperm and eggs, as well as the prevalence of multiple births, which impacts the ability to carry to term and deliver healthy infants.

What are the risks in artificial insemination?

Risks and Complications of Artificial Insemination

As with any surgical or invasive procedure, there are risks and potential complications that can occur. These can stem around the entrance into the pelvic cavity and intrusion into the uterus, or can be related to the medications utilized during the process.

Risks and complications of artificial insemination can include:

  • adverse side effects to the medications used to stimulate egg production - hormones used to stimulate fertility can cause hot flashes, mood swings and other symptoms similar to premenstrual syndrome or even menopause
  • bleeding into the ovary following puncture to retrieve the eggs - rare but possible, especially in women who are taking blood thinners or who have blood clotting defects
  • miscarriage of the implanted embryo - this is a risk for any pregnancy
  • multiple birth - this is common due to the use of fertility drugs
  • infection from the sperm - though rare, sperm cannot be sterilized in the traditional sense, so there can still be a risk for contracting an infection
  • puncture of the uterus during egg retrieval - this is not frequent and is more of a risk in obese women where there is a great deal of fatty tissue to navigate to reach the ovary.
Artificial insemination involves surgical techniques, which always carry certain risks, due to the penetration of the skin and internal organs. The risks for artificial insemination are not greater than for any other surgical procedure, and the potential benefits of an infertile couple conceiving a healthy child certainly outweigh the potential risks.

What are the laws governing sperm and egg donation?

Legal Ramifications of Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination also involves the use of donor sperm or eggs, and there are many contributors to infertility which involve egg or sperm production.

Laws vary from state to state in terms of the responsibilities and legalities of artificial insemination, including anonymity of donors, use of surrogates and the ability of children conceived with donor sperm or eggs to contact the donors upon reaching maturity.

  • California does not recognize egg or sperm donors as having any legal rights with regards to the offspring produced with their donations.
  • In England, donors are facing changes in that laws that will prohibit them from being anonymous in their donations. This has adversely affected the donor sperm supply, since many men do not wish to be contacted by the children they assist to conceive. This also raises legal issues of rights of the offspring to money or property, based solely on their genetic connection to the donor.
  • Use of surrogates, with or without artificial insemination, is prohibited in five (5) States and Washington DC.
Before considering sperm or egg donation, check with the Donor Center or Fertility Clinic near you, or speak with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law, to ascertain your rights with regards to donating, the rights of the donation recipient, and the impact on you in terms of anonymity and protection from claims by children produced with your donation.

What is the origin of Artificial Insemination?

History of Artificial Insemination

Artificial Insemination is practiced by bees and many other flying insects, and is utilized by plants for reproduction. It was initially created by man to improve biology in farm animals, with the first animal being cattle. It then spread to include: sheep, rabbits, swine, horses, goats, poultry, and then to endangered species, such as the California Condor. It wasn't until the 20th century that the technique was developed for use in humans, and gained widespread popularity in the 1970's.

It is believed that AI was initially created for humans as a type of selective breeding process to limit or eliminate defects in humans, by several medical professionals of the time, including: Dr. William Pancoat, Francic Crick and Dr. William Shockley. It is now widely used to assist otherwise infertile couples to conceive, with ever-improving success rates.

What is "artificial insemination?"

Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is the process by which an egg is fertilized in the absence of intercourse. Intercourse to achieve pregnancy is termed "natural conception." So, it follows that means other than natural conception could be regarded as "artificial" insemination.

  1. Artificial insemination may involve different techniques, including: intra-uterine insemination - where sperm are instilled or injected into the uterus, after a retrieval or sperm donation.
  2. in vitro fertilization - where sperm and egg are joined in a petri dish or test tube, then implanted into the uterus.
Both of these processes fall under the umbrella term "assistive reproductive technologies" so-called because pregnancy is not achieved without outside medical assistance.

Ideally, a couple or woman under the age of 35 should attempt natural conception for 1 year before seeking fertility assistance. For women over the age of 35, 6 months is the current standard. Talk to your gynecologist about Artificial Insemination to see if this is the right assistive reproductive technology for you.

When would a surrogate be used with artificial insemination?

Surrogacy and Artificial Insemination

There are times when natural conception is not possible for a woman due to medical conditions. Even if the couple includes a fertile man, who is able to provide adequate quality sperm, the lack of a vessel in which to carry a child, makes conception impossible. This is where a surrogate comes in. A surrogate, or surrogate mother, is a woman who provides her uterus to carry another couple's child to term. She usually receives a fee for this. Though she can become pregnant through natural conception by having intercourse with the man, it is often more suitable to utilize artificial insemination to achieve pregnancy.

As with sperm and egg donors, surrogates are thoroughly screened for health conditions, but they are also screened psychologically, to ensure that they are able to manage the stress associated with a pregnancy, and are able to relinquish the child to its parents, once it is born.

The process for artificial insemination using a surrogate is the same for anyone, and can utilize the woman's eggs, if she is able to produce them:

  1. medications to stimulate egg production, in either the surrogate or infertile woman
  2. egg retrieval
  3. fertilization with sperm in a petri dish or test tube, and then
  4. implantation in the uterus of the surrogate, to achieve pregnancy - inside the surrogate
With proper planning and screening, the use of surrogacy to achieve childbirth can be a positive and successful experience for both the surrogate and the parents of the child, and aids the otherwise infertile woman the opportunity to have a child of her own.

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