Artificial Insemination (AI)

Last Updated: May 2, 2018

Definition - What does Artificial Insemination (AI) mean?

Artificial insemination (AI) is a procedure where pregnancy is attempted by depositing sperm directly in the vagina, cervix or uterus with a syringe or catheter rather than through intercourse. Artificial insemination is used in cases infertility due to abnormalities of the cervix or disorders of sexual performance and to maximize the potential for sub-optimal semen. AI can also be used when using donor sperm.

Artificial insemination is also called assisted insemination.

FertilitySmarts explains Artificial Insemination (AI)

Artificial insemination is a form of assisted reproduction. For AI to be effective, the female involved needs to have both structurally and functionally normal ovaries and a uterus.

Women with abnormalities of the cervix can develop infertility as it can limit the passage of sperm into the uterus. This can be due to narrowing of the cervix, inadequate production of cervical mucus to aid sperm movement or production of mucus that is toxic to sperm cells. AI is helpful for conception in these individuals.

Abnormalities of sperm cells, either in the number or function, can make it difficult for sperm to swim all the way to the uterus to fertilize an egg. Males who have obstructive azoospermia are also unable to fertilize an egg thorough intercourse. Males with this type of infertility also benefit from AI.

There are three types of artificial insemination:

  • Intravaginal insemination (IVI), the most common method for home insemination where sperm is introduced into the vagina, most commonly with a syringe. Sperm may be washed or unwashed.
  • Intracervical Insemination (ICI) is similar to IVI, except sperm is often inserted higher into the vagina, with the use of a catheter. A cervical cap may be used to contain the sperm. This may be done at home or in a clinic. Sperm may be washed or unwashed.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is almost always done in a clinic. Sperm needs to be washed. Pregnancy rates are higher for IUI than IVI and ICI.

Overall pregnancy rates for women undergoing AI are not as high as with more advanced fertility procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF), but the technique has other advantages in that it is quick, simple, inexpensive, and has no side effects.

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