At-home insemination is defined as “the process of inserting ejaculate into the vagina, close to the cervix, using a needleless syringe” (CoFertility). The goal of at-home insemination is to conceive, but it does not require sexual intercourse. It is performed at home, or in a private place, hence the name “at-home insemination.” At-home insemination is also sometimes referred to as artificial insemination or intracervical insemination (ICI).
At-home insemination is not meant to replace professional fertility treatments. Consult your doctor if you have questions about whether at-home insemination is something you should consider.
Why Use At-Home Insemination?
Conceiving a child is an intricate process. In order for conception to occur naturally, sperm must be deposited into the vagina, then travel through the vagina, cervix, uterus, and into the fallopian tube. In the fallopian tube, the sperm must meet and penetrate the egg to form an embryo. Then, the embryo must travel down the fallopian tube to the uterus, and implant in the uterine wall.
Although fertilization only requires one healthy sperm, it can be difficult to conceive if there is a low number of sperm or low-quality sperm. A heterosexual couple may use at-home insemination if they have not conceived after trying for a few months to a year. Or, if the man has been diagnosed with low volume or low quality of sperm. If performed correctly, at-home insemination theoretically gives the sperm a greater chance of meeting and penetrating the egg. This is because, in at-home insemination, the sperm is deposited at the base of the cervix, which may be closer to the egg than when sperm is deposited through sexual intercourse.
Another important factor for conceiving is the woman’s vaginal pH. During the fertile window (around ovulation), the vaginal pH becomes less acidic. This creates a non-toxic environment for sperm and increases the sperm’s ability to survive inside the female reproductive tract. If the vaginal pH is too acidic during the fertile window, conception may be difficult. At-home insemination eliminates the need for sperm to travel through the vagina because sperm are deposited at the base of the cervix. Therefore, at-home insemination may be a helpful tool for people whose vaginal pH is unfavorable for conception.
Lesbian couples or single women can also use at-home insemination to conceive. The process is the same, the only difference is that it requires donor sperm.
How Does At-Home Insemination Work?
At-home insemination kits can be purchased online, at various pharmacies or retailers, or from some fertility clinics. The first step is to determine when the woman is in her fertile window. Many at-home insemination kits include ovulation test strips which can detect a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. A rise in LH means that the ovary is about to release an egg or very recently released an egg. A woman’s fertile window can also be detected by monitoring basal body temperature and/or cervical mucus. At-home insemination should be performed during a woman’s fertile window.
The technique for performing at-home insemination varies based on the specific product and brand that is being used. The steps below are for reference, and should not replace medical instruction.
- Acquire fresh ejaculate or thaw frozen ejaculate
- Ejaculate is placed in a needleless syringe
- The needleless syringe is inserted into the vagina and the ejaculate is injected at the base of the cervix
- The woman remains lying down for 15-30 minutes
The technique described above was using a needleless syringe, however, at-home insemination can also be performed using a cervical cap. Check out this blog post to learn more about cervical caps and Stork, one of the leading products.
At-Home Insemination vs. IUI
At-home insemination shares some similarities with intrauterine insemination (IUI), but there are also many differences. IUI is performed by a doctor, typically at a fertility clinic, and sometimes at an OBGYN clinic. In preparation for IUI, blood tests and ultrasounds are used to monitor when ovulation will occur. Some women may also take a medication that induces ovulation, such as HCG or Clomid.
Next, the ejaculate is “washed,” which separates healthy sperm from unhealthy sperm and other elements in semen. Then, the doctor places the sperm in a catheter. The catheter is inserted into the vagina, passes through a small opening in the cervix, and deposits sperm in the uterus.
You may be wondering “which one is right for me; at-home insemination, or IUI?” Both options have positives and negatives that should be considered. At-home insemination is much more affordable than IUI and can take place in an intimate and private setting. IUI is more expensive, takes place in a sterile environment which reduces the risk of infection, and ovulation monitoring is more accurate.
Some couples choose to try at-home insemination before moving on to IUI, while others choose to go straight to IUI. At the end of the day, what’s most important is to do what feels most comfortable.
Other Things to Consider
- Due to the nature of at-home insemination, user error can greatly affect results. It is very important to follow the product’s directions exactly, and be certain the woman is in her fertile window.
- It is very hard to identify the success rate of at-home insemination. This is because products vary, data collection is challenging, and user technique cannot be controlled.
- At-home insemination does not replace fertility testing and is not considered advanced reproductive technology.
There are many different fertility treatments that are available for people who want to become parents. For some people, at-home insemination may be a helpful tool for conceiving. If you have been trying naturally for one year, or 6 months if over the age of thirty-five, consider seeing a doctor.