Artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are highly recommended fertility treatment methods. Artificial insemination is often the first step in the process and advocated for minor infertility conditions, single women, or same-sex couples. IVF is recommended when fertility drugs and AI have already failed or are unlikely to work. Same-sex couples may also benefit from IVF. Individual circumstances will determine the best treatment method.
Artificial insemination involves the insertion of sperm into a woman’s cervix during times of ovulation. Artificial insemination is also called intrauterine insemination (IUI), donor insemination, or alternative insemination. The procedure is used to help women unable to get pregnant after a year of trying. Multiple miscarriages, irregular periods, cervical disorders, and endometriosis may indicate a need for artificial insemination. If the male partner suffers from erectile dysfunction or immotile sperm, assisted insemination could be beneficial. Artificial insemination can also be used by single women wishing to carry a child. Multiple pregnancies are quite common with IUI.
Artificial insemination is one of the first steps in fertility treatments. Doctors will prescribe fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation and increase the chances the female will release more than one egg. The sperm can be from a parent or donor. Once the sperm is collected, the semen will be washed to isolate the most active sperm. The sperm will then be injected into the female uterus. The individual must then wait and hope fertilization happens. IUI increases the chance of fertility, but fertilization is not guaranteed. The entire procedure can be done within an hour. Processing the sperm takes approximately 45 minutes, and inserting the sperm into the uterus takes only a few minutes.
IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). During IVF, the egg is fertilized outside of the body and then implanted into the mother’s uterus. IVF is used to treat women with blocked fallopian tubes, ovulation disorders, endometriosis, or other infertility-related issues. Though the term has been highly popularized, IVF is only used in about 5% of infertility cases. IVF is used after fertility drugs, artificial insemination, and surgery have not worked.
During the process, the female’s ovulation cycle will be tracked. The patient will be given medication to increase the chance of releasing multiple eggs. The eggs must be retrieved while still in the fallopian tubes. Eggs removed too early or too late may not be viable for the IVF procedure. The patient will be given pain medication and given the option of being mildly sedated or put to sleep. The egg retrieval process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. The eggs are placed in a petri dish and fertilized with fresh or defrosted sperm. While frozen sperm has an unlimited shelf life, fresh sperm is stronger. Once the egg has been successfully fertilized and deemed a strong embryo, the doctor will then insert the egg into the female uterus.
Artificial insemination is often the first step in the process. Single women or same-sex couples may turn to artificial insemination as a means of family planning, even if the mother does not experience fertility issues. Artificial insemination is less invasive and less expensive than IVF. But the procedure may not be enough.
Blocked fallopian tubes, reduced ovarian reserve, and the use of donor eggs requires IVF. Erectile dysfunction and low sperm mobility can also require IVF over artificial insemination. Treatment methods will depend on circumstances and diagnosis.
There are a variety of treatment options available for infertility. AI and IVF are two of the most common treatments. Determining which treatment is best will depend on individual circumstances. Couples should speak with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist for recommendations and infertility treatment options.