Artificial insemination

Artificial Insemination (AI) is a technique involving the artificial insertion of sperm into the uterus to create a pregnancy. There are two methods for AI:

Cervical insemination

With cervical insemination (CI), the sperm is placed in a cap that fits over the women's cervix (opening to the womb). The sperm can be placed in this way without any special preparation. This keeps the sperm in place until the cap is removed, and avoids the natural spillage that occurs after intercourse.

Intrauterine insemination

With intrauterine insemination (IUI), the sperm is separated in the laboratory from the seminal fluid (white coloured liquid), and then inserted directly into the uterus, bypassing the cervix. This prevents spillage and helps sperm to pass through the cervical mucus. When the male partner has a low sperm count, it allows more sperm to "get to" the egg. However, it does not guarantee that the sperm will fertilize an egg.

Artificial insemination (AI) has been in use for a long time and is less "high-tech" than some other methods of assisted conception. With AI, semen must be introduced into the uterus around the time of ovulation. It can help couples where the man has a low sperm count, or where the sperm are unable to pass through the woman's cervical mucus. Because sperm is placed directly inside the woman, AI can help couples who are unable to have intercourse or who have difficulties such as premature ejaculation. It may also help couples who have unexplained infertility.

Your doctor may prescribe fertility drugs to induce ovulation before IUI or CI. These can improve your chances of becoming pregnant, either by making a woman's cycles regular, when they are irregular, or by inducing more than one egg to develop to increase the probability of one fertilizing. Fertility drugs can have some side effects, and they can slightly increase your chance of twins, and very rarely more. You can learn more about this from your doctor.

AI using donor sperm can be used in some cases where the man is producing no sperm, for single women, or for same-sex female couples.