Photographed by Megan Madden.
Editor's note:This story was originally published on April 19, 2020. We've resurfaced it to bring awareness totopics of fertilityin honor ofNational Infertility Awareness Week.
If you search Google for tips on at-home insemination, you’ll see over a million pages of results. People will give you advice down to the last detail. They’ll recommend taking supplements like evening primrose to change the consistency of your cervical mucus lining. They’ll demonstrate exactly how they positioned themselves with their legs against a wall, so they could use their dominant hand to insert sperm in their vagina. They’ll tell you how to use ovulation sticks and which syringes to buy. (Spoiler: They work better than a turkey baster.)
There are a few things the internet can't tell you about inseminating yourself at home, though, says Lucky Sekhon, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist at the fertility clinic RMA New York. She's seen a fair amount of patients who’ve tried to artificially inseminate themselves outside of a medical clinic. Many of them are single mothers by choice or members of the LGBTQ+ community, though some heterosexual couples use the method too.
“If someone wants to do it, I’m supportive and I don’t condemn it,” Dr. Sekhon says. “I do advise: Don’t be afraid to get a consultation with a doctor and ask questions about testing up front… Going to a doctor shouldn’t make you feel like you're automatically signing up for something, you’re just getting all the facts, and you can still choose to do the procedure at home.”
This is what she tells patients who are interested in the process.
Does at-home insemination work?
At-home insemination can certainly result in pregnancy, though it's not the most effective method out there. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is about three times more likely to lead to a pregnancy than intracervical insemination (which is what most people do at home; an IUI typically requires doctors' tools or expertise), according to a 2001 study comparing the two methods.
There are multiple reasons for this. For one, inseminating oneself isn't as simple as inserting a syringe and squeezing. You need to find the right spot. “The effectiveness can be reduced unless you have a midwife who knows the curve of the cervix well,” Dr. Sekhon says. “It’s not a straightforward path, and it’s not always easy to find the top… I remember when I was an intern doing my OB/GYN residency and it was difficult at first — it takes expertise to navigate.”
Another reason for the higher success rate of in-office procedures is that medical professionals can perform an ultrasound to make sure you have eggs that are ready to be fertilized before the procedure. Although there are plenty of ways to track ovulation with kits at home and on phone apps, Dr. Sekhon says they’re not 100 percent accurate.
Is it cheaper to do at-home insemination?
Saving money is the primary reason people pursue at-home insemination, Dr. Sekhon says. She notes that an in-office intrauterine insemination (IUI) typically costs around $300.
Plus, couples who have tried at-home insemination without success may have an easier time getting their insurance providers to cover procedures such as IUI or IVF in the future, Dr. Sekhon says. This is good to keep in mind if you need to pursue IVF down the road. If you tell your doctor you've tried to inseminate at home, and it's in your medical record, an insurance provider might not make you wait as long before they cover the costs of your procedures.
Still, most patients also have to pay for sperm to do an at-home insemination, and that can cost up to $500 per vial, depending on the sperm bank you use, Dr. Sekhon says. What's more, since at-home insemination is thought to be less effective than in-office procedures, the cost of sperm can get expensive. “If you need six rounds, that adds up,” she says.
Hoping to cut costs by having a friend donate sperm? That can also come with some legal issues. There are laws and paperwork that prevent sperm bank donors from claiming parental rights on any children that are born from their sperm; not so if you use a friend. “The donor could definitely fight for custody, which could be a major legal battle in the end,” Dr. Sekhon says. “While it’s cheap up front, it would be a huge headache and financial burden down the road."
Is at-home insemination safe?
There’s a small chance of introducing bacteria into the vagina via an unsterile syringe, which could lead to an infection of the uterus lining such as endometritis. Signs of this include abnormal vaginal swelling, bleeding, and discharge, as well as pelvis pain and fever. This can be treated with antibiotics.
The more common health risk, however, has to do with the sperm. If you get your sperm through an official bank, they’ll most likely do the proper medical testing for you. If you use a friend, “get preliminary testing done on the sperm sample,” Dr. Sekhon stresses. That includes an STI test, including a HIV test, and genetic testing to rule out the possibility that you and the donor carry a mutation that could be passed onto your future child. This is crucial, Dr. Sekhon says.
Genetic testing is covered by most insurance providers — but even if it's not or you don't have insurance, Dr. Sekhon says it's usually heavily subsidized.
Wash your hands and wear gloves when you’re doing the insertion, Dr. Sekhon says. "Whatever can be done to maintain sterility throughout the procedure —including not letting the catheter tip touch anything before it is used for insemination — is advised."
What equipment and supplies do I need for an at-home insemination?
To complete an at-home insemination, you'll need a sterile syringe and screened sperm. (We'll say it again: It's best not to use a turkey baster.)
That's it —but there are a few things that aren't required, but can help. An ovulation tracker or test strip can help ensure you're inseminating yourself or your partner at the most fertile time. A "soft cup," which looks like a menstrual cup, that helps keep the sperm closer to the top of the cervix.
(I read about a couple who cut a racquetball in half, ejaculated into one side of it, and used that as a soft cup. Understandably, Dr. Sekhon advises against homemade equipment like this, stressing the need for sterility.)
As for the supplements and medicines that may claim to make your at-home insemination more effective —Dr. Sekhon says many of them aren’t worth your money. “There are really no supplements I’d recommend,” she says. There's a rumor, for instance, that taking mucus-thinning cold medicines can thin out the cervical mucus, making it easier for sperm to get to the egg. Dr. Sekhon says this is an unproven theory.
She also advises against taking medication to help you release more than one egg, such as Clomid. These drugs increase the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can cause ovaries to swell, triggering vomiting, pain, and other more severe complications, says Dr. Sekhon. There's also a higher potential of having multiples. If you think you need this medication, talk to your doctor first.
Dr. Sekhon says the best thing you can take is a prenatal vitamin; they're typically rich in folic acid, and there's plenty of evidence to show that upping your folic acid intake during pregnancy is beneficial.
What do I need to know about home insemination? ›
Home Insemination is a method of achieving pregnancy without intercourse. It involves using a needleless syringe or cervical cap to place the semen directly on the cervix.How can I make my home insemination successful? ›
Very slowly inject the sperm to coat the outside of the cervix. The woman should try to have an orgasm with clitoral stimulation, but without penetration. A climax makes the cervix more receptive for the sperm and may increase the chances of conception. Then try to avoid moving for about 30 minutes.What are the chances of home insemination working? ›
While home insemination has worked for many families, it's not a guarantee for conception, and it requires close preparation and proper timing to succeed. The current industry success rate is between 10 and 15 percent per menstrual cycle for those using the intracervical insemination method (ICI).How much sperm is needed for at home insemination? ›
The recommended amount of sperm for home insemination is a ml containing at least 10million to 19million motile sperm cells. Since Cryos straws are 0.5ml each, purchasing two straws MOT10 would accumulate to the recommended amount and motility.How do you prepare yourself for artificial insemination? ›
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
- Start taking prenatal vitamins.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol and recreational drugs.
Follow your clinic's instructions and wait at least 14 days post-IUI before taking a test. Many clinics will schedule you for a pregnancy blood test at the 14-day mark. A blood test can detect lower levels of hCG and is considered even more accurate than urine tests.How can I increase my chances of insemination? ›
According to doctors, having sex actually helps because the uterus begins to contract, which results in the push of the sperm towards the fallopian tube and the eggs. Therefore don't shy away from your spouse. Having sex won't disturb the procedure at all. Instead, it will improve the chances of getting pregnant.How do you ensure sperm enters your cervix? ›
The sperm must be able to invade the cervix via the cervical mucus by virtue of their own swimming ability. Nothing about the sexual act will help those sperm get into the cervix. They simply have to swim into the mucus on their own, and this requires a great deal of coordinated, cooperative activity on their part.How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant with artificial insemination? ›
To increase your chances of success, a cycle of IUI should be done just after ovulation. Ovulation usually happens 12 to 16 days before your next period. This can vary if you have an irregular menstrual cycle. You may be given an ovulation prediction kit (OPK) to help you work out the date of ovulation.How many times should you inseminate to get pregnant? ›
You may choose to only inseminate once, or repeat insemination two or three times during your fertile window to increase your chances of conception. Finally, a note about managing expectations. On average, it takes five cycles for most women to achieve pregnancy.
What type of sperm is best for at home insemination? ›
ICI-ready sperm is typically used for home insemination, and IUI-ready sperm is usually used for clinic insemination, but both can absolutely be used in home insemination.Can sperm fall out after home insemination? ›
Q : Can the sperm fall out? A : Once the sperm is injected into the uterus, it does not fall out. There can, however be an increased wetness after the procedure because of the catheter loosens mucus in the cervix and allows it to flow out. The wetness is due to the mucus rather than the sperm.How long should I lay down after insemination? ›
The researchers concluded that lying down for 15 minutes after intrauterine insemination increases pregnancy rates compared with moving around immediately afterwards. They suggest that “immobilisation for 15 minutes should be offered to all women treated with intrauterine insemination.”How many drops of sperm is needed to get pregnant? ›
It takes just one sperm to fertilize a woman's egg. Keep in mind, though, for each sperm that reaches the egg, there are millions that don't. On average, each time men ejaculate they release nearly 100 million sperm.What are 2 cons of artificial insemination? ›
There is some evidence to suggest that it may carry an increased chance of birth defects in the child. There is also a slight increase in risk of infections since sperm can never be 100% sterilized. In 1% of cases, an infection known as endometriosis may occur.What questions should be asked when considering artificial insemination? ›
- What does artificial insemination involve? ...
- Is artificial insemination painful? ...
- When is artificial insemination indicated? ...
- How do we prepare a patient for artificial insemination?
After IUI care involves avoidance of spicy and difficult-to-digest foods including Mexican and Indian cuisines, sugary beverages, processed foods, and eating excessive fish (owing to mercury levels). Furthermore, some fruits like pineapple and papaya can serve as blood thinners and disintegrate the endometrial layer.What are the best days to inseminate? ›
Because you can't predict exactly when ovulation is taking place, it's a good idea to inseminate two days in a row, twelve-hours or twenty-four hours apart. This way you increase your chance of having live sperm waiting in the fallopian tube as the egg begins traveling down the tube after ovulation.How long after insemination Do you feel pregnant? ›
Some women may notice symptoms as early as 5 DPO, although they won't know for certain that they are pregnant until much later. Early signs and symptoms include implantation bleeding or cramps, which can occur 5–6 days after the sperm fertilizes the egg. Other early symptoms include breast tenderness and mood changes.How do you know if insemination was successful? ›
The only way to be sure whether or not IUI has worked is to take a pregnancy test 14 days after the IUI procedure. Some women opt to take home pregnancy tests earlier than this, which can be somewhat stressful. It is not easy to get a reliable result before 14 days.
Can I inject sperm into my cervix? ›
ICI is a type of artificial insemination that involves inserting sperm into the cervix. This is the passageway just outside the uterus. This approach can be used in a doctor's office or at home.How do you help the sperm reach the egg? ›
Have sex often, at least 3 times a week, the more often you try, the more chances you get at becoming pregnant. Lying down for at least a few minutes after sex increases the odds that the sperm will be able to keep their date with the awaiting egg.What are two common reasons artificial insemination fails? ›
- Poor quality eggs.
- Inability of sperm to reach and/or penetrate the egg.
- Thin endometrial lining.
- Ovulation issues.
- Incorrect timing of insemination.
- Progesterone deficiency.
- Age of the woman.
- The ovarian reserve.
- The husband's sperm parameters.
- The underlying cause of infertility.
- Usage of certain drugs.
- Other unidentified fertility conditions.
Science says, not exactly. In the 1900s, some experts came up with the idea of the “upsuck theory,” which essentially hypothesized that the uterine contractions that occur during an orgasm propel semen into the vaginal canal. But many studies have since proven that an orgasm is unlikely to factor into conception.How many days before ovulation should you inseminate? ›
Ideally, it should take place within six hours on either side of ovulation, as determined by an at-home ovulation predictor kit. For women who receive fertility medication injections to stimulate ovulation, artificial insemination is typically done 24-48 hours after the injection.What is the best consistency for sperm to get pregnant? ›
Healthy semen typically has the following characteristics: whitish, grayish, or yellowish color. a mild alkaline smell (like chlorine or bleach) viscous, jelly-like texture that turns watery after 30 minutes.Should I put my legs up after insemination? ›
As for the ol' legs in the air myth, Dr. Jones says there's no truth in it, and the same goes for the idea you need to stay lying flat for a while after sex. “Sperm swim, so they don't rely on gravity to get to where they need to go,” she explains.Can a watery sperm get a woman pregnant? ›
The concentration of sperm is what makes the semen cloudy and thick, so if your ejaculate is watery it is possible that you have a low sperm count. This doesn't mean you're infertile (so precautions to prevent pregnancy still need to be taken for couples that don't want to get pregnant).How many times should a man release sperm in a week? ›
There isn't a specific number of times you need to ejaculate each day, week, or month to achieve any particular result. Read on to find out where that number came from, how ejaculation affects your prostate cancer risk, what happens to your sperm, and more.
Can a tiny amount of sperm get you pregnant? ›
When there is less sperm in an ejaculation, it reduces the probability that you will get pregnant. This is simply because there are fewer sperm available to reach and fertilize the egg. While having a low sperm count makes it more difficult to conceive, it's still possible to get pregnant.How long does sperm live in a cup? ›
Sperm can live in a sample cup for up to 72 hours. This is because the sample cup contains a preservative that helps to keep the sperm alive. According to an article on Healthline, men should collect a sperm sample after ejaculation in order to preserve their fertility.Is it normal for sperm to leak out the next day? ›
Loss of seminal fluid after intercourse is perfectly normal, and most women notice some discharge immediately after sex. Many infertile couples imagine that this is the cause of their problem.How long can sperm live in a Ziploc bag? ›
In general, semen doses are stored at 17°C in plastic bags for between 24 hours and approximately one week.How long does it take sperm to reach the cervix? ›
It can take anything from 45 minutes to 12 hours for a sperm to reach your fallopian tubes, which is where conception usually happens. However, sperm can survive inside your body for up to seven days, so conception can happen at any point in the week after unprotected sex, if you're ovulating.Which round of sperm is more fertile? ›
Summary: Sperm in the first fraction of ejaculate are more numerous, move more and present better quality DNA than those lagging behind.What not to do after insemination? ›
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Reduce your tea, coffee or caffeine intake to about 2-3 cups a day or less.
- Stay away from any type of radiation and heat.
Immediately After an IUI Procedure
Strenuous exercise is not recommended. You should avoid swimming or bathing for a few days to reduce any possible chance of infection, although it's fine to shower.
You won't hurt your chances of conception if you go and pee immediately afterward. If you really want to give it a moment, consider waiting five minutes or so, then get up and pee.