All About Artificial Insemination



Artificial insemination, often abbreviated to AI, is one of many fertility treatments available to couples who are trying to conceive. While artificial insemination is a non-invasive procedure and not as expensive as other fertility treatments, it offers a good success rate.

In this article, we take a look at what artificial insemination is, what the insemination procedure entails, who it is recommended for and what success rate can be expected.

What is artificial insemination?

Artificial insemination refers to a process in which semen is placed in a woman’s vagina or cervix by a means other than sexual intercourse. It is a widely-used form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that has proven safe and effective over time.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first recorded experiment with artificial insemination in humans occurred in the late 1700s, when a Scottish-born surgeon called John Hunter impregnated a woman with her husband’s sperm, resulting in a successful pregnancy. Later in 1884, American physician William Pancoast performed an artificial insemination procedure using sperm from a donor.

What does the insemination procedure entail?

Artificial Insemination is a relatively quick and easy procedure, compared to other fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). It is also a safe procedure, entailing very little medical risk for the women undergoing this treatment.

Many women say it feels like a PAP smear. The procedure is usually done in your fertility specialist’s examination room, in the late morning, and during the middle of the woman’s menstrual cycle. Her natural cycle is followed, with ultrasound and blood tests to check when ovulation occurs or stimulation can be given to grow eggs.

During the artificial insemination procedure, semen is introduced into the woman’s vagina or cervix by means of a syringe or a tiny flexible plastic tube that is inserted into the uterine cavity. Artificial insemination treatment is often provided with special medications to stimulate ovulation.

The semen can be from the woman’s own male partner or from a male donor (if the husband is sterile). The semen can also have been previously frozen and stored in a sperm bank.

If the artificial insemination is done with the partner’s sperm, the partner brings in a sperm sample in the morning. During the next two hours, the laboratory will improve the sperm sample, before the artificial insemination procedure is done.

Artificial insemination can also be done with donor sperm and is also called AID (Artificial Insemination with Donor sperm). The sperm donor is selected prior to starting the treatment cycle and information about the donor’s age, physical characteristics, occupation, medical and family history, hobbies and personality are used to choose an appropriate donor.

At Cape Fertility, all donors complete a questionnaire to ensure they have no history of genetic disease or illness. In addition, a comprehensive semen analysis is done. A good semen analysis is crucial, ensuring the sperm function is still good after freezing and thawing prior to insemination. All donors have their blood and urine tested for any diseases and are seen by both a doctor and by a psychologist. Donor sperm is also only used after three months to ensure the donor is not in the window period of HIV infection.

Sperm donation in South Africa is anonymous and therefore the identity of the donor is legally protected. In the United Kingdom children born following sperm donation may be entitled to find out the identity of the donor, this is not the case in South Africa.

For whom is artificial insemination recommended?

Although the pregnancy rates achieved with artificial insemination are lower than those achieved with in vitro fertilisation (IVF), artificial insemination is both less expensive and less invasive, so it may be attempted as a first fertility treatment. It is also recommended for unexplained infertility, when the cause of infertility cannot be identified.

Artificial insemination is also recommended for women who are physically capable of conceiving and carrying a baby, but cannot fall pregnant through sexual intercourse, for a number of reasons, such male partner infertility or a same-sex partner. It is also recommended for women with minimal or mild endometriosis, and for those with ovulation problems, in combination with ovulation induction.

Traditionally, artificial insemination was recommended for male infertility, where the male partner is impotent or struggling with erectile dysfunction, or is sterile. However, since the invention of Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), many men with low sperm counts can have their own biological children. ICSI is a procedure similar to IVF, except that with ICSI a single sperm cell – the best available – is injected directly into the egg.

As a result, artificial insemination is now usually reserved for men with no sperm cell production at all. Impregnation of a woman through artificial insemination may also be used by women or men in same-sex partnerships who wish to produce children of their own. Single women may also choose to undergo artificial insemination using donor sperm.

What is the success rate for artificial insemination?

The technique of artificial insemination is reasonably successful in achieving conception and pregnancy, although the pregnancy rates achieved are lower than with IVF, which is also more invasive and more expensive.

At Cape Fertility, we are very proud of our average success rates for artificial insemination with partner sperm at 15% and 24% for artificial insemination with donor sperm. Bear in mind that the success rates depend on many factors – with the most important being the age of the woman having treatment.

Which is the best clinic to get artificial insemination?

Another important factor in the success rate is the fertility clinic you choose at which to undergo your artificial insemination treatment.

Cape Fertility ranks as one of the best fertility clinics not only in the City of Cape Town, but also in South Africa and the world.

Among the reasons for this is the idyllic setting in what has been repeatedly voted “Greatest City in the World”, superb facilities, renowned specialists and experienced fertility experts, a range of advanced fertility treatments, excellent results and inspiring feedback from patients.

When you have your artificial insemination treatment at Cape Fertility, you will meet one of our four reproductive specialists: all with impressive qualifications and extensive experience, who are supported by a full team of fertility experts.

We offer artificial insemination treatment at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town, with procedure rooms and a modern sophisticated laboratory adjacent to our Main Reception and Staff Offices. These facilities, along with our experienced team, ensure all the latest assisted conception techniques, including artificial insemination, are used with great success at Cape Fertility.

But perhaps our greatest successes are the feedback we receive from our patients, who often describe Cape Fertility and our staff as “the best”. We invite you to read more reviews here… to find out what our patients say about their experience at our clinic.

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town.

Your first step receiving artificial insemination treatment is simply to contact us by clicking here.