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Is At-Home Insemination Safe?
a blog by Kim Griffiths, February 18, 2013
At-home insemination is a method of vaginal insemination used by couples who are having trouble trying to conceive as a result of male factor infertility, or by couples using donor sperm. It is a common practice amongst lesbian couples, but what seems like a practical and low-cost fertility treatment comes with some risks and disadvantages compared to intrauterine insemination (IUI) at a fertility clinic.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is performed by a trained fertility doctor using sterile medical equipment. The male partner or sperm donor is required to undergo extensive health, sexually transmitted disease (STD), and other infectious disease screenings. A semen analysis is also performed, which provides detailed information on the quantity (sperm count) and quality (volume, morphology, motility) of the sperm sample. The sperm is then washed in a lab and the most active, best quality sperm are placed into the uterus using a catheter and syringe. The cervix is bypassed with use of a speculum. The female patient’s menstrual cycle is monitored with blood work and ultrasound to track ovulation, which is especially important when ovarian stimulation fertility drugs are used. The success rates are between 10-20% per IUI cycle and the average cost is around $850 (does not include fertility drug costs).
At-home insemination does not offer the same blood work and ultrasound monitoring as an IUI cycle with a fertility clinic. Most doctors will not prescribe fertility drugs to a patient who is performing at-home insemination. Unless the sperm is obtained from a credible sperm bank, it is unlikely that the donor underwent an infectious disease or STD screening, semen analysis, and general health workup. If obtained from a source other than a credible sperm bank, it is also unlikely that the sperm was washed, which can cause irritation and rejection by the uterus and spread of disease, among other complications. At-home insemination may not be performed using sterile equipment and without thorough knowledge of female anatomy, it is possible you can injure yourself while attempting to administer the sperm (in fact, many online sources allude to the use of a turkey baster- we can only hope women know better!) While at-home insemination is cheaper than IUI, the success rates are only around 10% per cycle and the risk to your health can be quite costly.