Artificial insemination is commonly used by people who require donated sperm in their fertility treatment, including single women, same sex women and some heterosexual couples. It is also used by heterosexual couples with the partner’s sperm if they are having trouble trying to conceive due to the male partner having a very low sperm count or if they carry a genetic disorder. It can be performed at home or in a fertility clinic.
Home insemination is a method of impregnation where male partner or donor sperm is introduced into a female’s reproductive tract without sexual intercourse, and outside of a fertility clinic.
The do-it-yourself home insemination approach may at first glance seem like a convenient and low-cost option to try for a baby, but it does come with risk factors that need to be considered carefully. In this blog we discuss the advantages of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and donor insemination (DI) in a fertility centre and the pitfalls of home insemination.
Why use a licensed fertility clinic for artificial sperm insemination?
- The female patient’s fertility history and investigation results are considered to ensure they are ovulating, and insemination is a medically viable treatment option.
- Counselling is available and encouraged. At Complete Fertility Centre counselling is available throughout a patient’s fertility journey with up to six counselling sessions included in the treatment package. Patients have the opportunity to explore the implications of using donor sperm. All sperm donors will also have had implications counselling.
- The female patient’s menstrual cycle is monitored using blood test and ultrasound to track ovulation. This means insemination can be carried out at exactly the optimum time for fertilisation.
- IUI and DI are performed by a trained specialist fertility doctor using sterile medical equipment in a clinic theatre or private ward room.
- Ovarian stimulation fertility drugs can be used if required such as if the patient has ovulatory issues.
- The male partner or sperm donor is required to undergo careful screenings for infectious diseases including STDs and common genetic conditions.
- A semen analysis is performed and provides detailed information on the quantity (sperm count) and quality (volume, morphology, motility) of the sperm sample.
- The sperm is carefully prepared and ‘washed’ in a laboratory. The most active and best quality sperm are placed into the womb.
- Donor sperm is regulated by the HFEA. This means legal parenthood is set by law and the donor never becomes a legal parent to the child and has no parental rights. The female patient’s partner (if they have one) is also recognised as the second legal parent.
- As a registered HFEA sperm donor, the sperm donor is fully identifiable to the child if they wish once they reach 18 years of age allowing them to trace their biological origins.
The risks of home insemination and using unregulated sperm donations
- It’s likely that the female patient will not have had any medical fertility checks. They may have fertility issues that they are unaware of, and this would decrease their chances of success.
- Ovulation of the female patient isn’t tracked and can result in lower conception success. They will only be able to guestimate their best time for fertilisation. This can be difficult especially if they have irregular cycles.
- The sperm donor may not have had any medical checks, disease screening or a sperm analysis. This could put the patient and their baby’s health at risk, and there is no guarantee of the quality of the donated sperm.
The HFEA advises that donor sperm is tested for quality and safety, no matter where it is acquired from and that donors should also agree to their GP being contacted.
Some communicable diseases may not give a positive on a test for a period after the donor has been infected. Donor sperm from a HFEA licensed clinic is frozen and quarantined for 180 days and then the donor is retested after this period. Fresh sperm can be tested using an advanced method called Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT).
- Infection from trying to perform home insemination themselves using non-sterile equipment, and possible injury to the vagina and perforation of the womb.
- Potential legal parental ramifications are an essential consideration of home insemination.
Single women or same sex couples who are not married or in a civil partnership should be aware that the donor will be considered the legal parent of any children they have conceived through home insemination. This gives the donor rights over, and responsibilities for, the child.
It might be helpful to draw up an agreement with the sperm donor regarding parental rights and responsibilities before home insemination but it won’t be legally binding.
- There is no limit to the number of children a sperm donor, who is not from a regulated sperm bank, can help create. This could mean that some sperm donors father countless children this way and this increases the risk of them having incestuous relationships as adults.
Becoming a parent is a major life changing event and the path a person takes to reach this can impact on their chances of success, their and their baby’s health, and their future family life. It’s important to thoroughly research the risks of home insemination before going ahead with what may seem like a straightforward solution to conceiving.
We support the HFEA’s recommendation of only having treatment at a licensed clinic.
We have a large quality sperm bank and all of our sperm donors are rigorously screened and have full medical histories taken. Many write pen portraits that includes a description about them and a goodwill message intended for any child or children born as a result of their donation.
We offer fixed price packages with no hidden costs that include up to six counselling sessions.