Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
One of the oldest and most common forms of artificial insemination is intracervical insemination (ICI).
Intracervical insemination (ICI) involves placing donor sperm into the vagina and directly against the opening of the cervix. The sperm then begins its journey, fighting its way through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg during ovulation.
While there are fertility clinics that provide this treatment option, the main benefit of ICI is that it can be performed independently and in the comfort of your own home. It is also the least expensive of all artificial insemination options available.
To perform an ICI at home, it is vital that you monitor for your ovulation closely. Most women use ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), which are available in stores and online. OPKs indicate the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) your body is producing, which is one of the best ways to monitor your body for signs that you are about to ovulate. A positive OPK is indicated when the test line is at least as dark, or darker, than the control line, also known as a “blazing positive”.
If you are using fresh sperm from a known donor and he is able to provide donations more than once, or you have ordered two vials of frozen sperm, it is ideal to inseminate 12 and 24 hours after your blazing positive LH surge to improve your chances of conception.
However, if you are only able to receive one donation, then it is best to inseminate approximately 24 hours after your blazing positive LH surge, unless you know that you happen to be a woman who ovulates earlier than 24 hours after your surge. Once you have received the sperm, it is best to inseminate as soon as possible – especially if it is fresh.
If you are using a sperm donor from a cryobank, then unwashed vials (often called ICI-ready) are preferred for ICI. However, most sperm banks state that washed vials (often called IUI-ready) are acceptable for ICI as well. ART vials or IVF-ready vials are not advised for home insemination, as there is a substantially lower sperm count in such vials. Unwashed vials contain sperm donations where the semen is intact and included, while washed vials have had the mobile sperm separated and removed from the semen. The reason unwashed vials are preferred is because semen is helpful in transporting the sperm through the cervix.
Motility is another consideration when purchasing donor sperm from a sperm bank. Motility (MOT) refers to the number of millions of active sperm per 1.0 ml vial and the higher MOT is best, but a minimum of MOT10 (which is 10 million motile sperm guaranteed) is advised for ICI. You will also need to check your sperm bank’s FAQs page regarding MOT levels and what size of vials they sell, as a few banks sell .5 ml vials (in which case, you would need two .5 ml vials to get the full 1.0 ml MOT).
If you decide ICI is the method you want to use for trying to conceive, you will need:
- Donor sperm (either frozen ICI-ready MOT10 or higher from a sperm bank, or fresh from a known donor)
- Disposable syringe (no needle, with plunger at the end)
- Instead Softcup aka Softdisc (optional, but many women swear by it)
- Paper towel or hand towel
- If you plan to orgasm, any items you will need to do so
- Thirty minutes of time
- A location where you can lie with your legs and butt elevated
If using frozen donor sperm, thaw according to sperm bank’s directions (typically let it set at room temperature for approximately 15-20 minutes and then place under your armpit to bring to body temperature) to return the contents to a liquified state.
If using fresh sperm from a known donor, have the donor ejaculate into a sanitized container and wait 10 minutes or until the semen liquifies.
Once donor sperm is liquified, follow these ICI instructions step-by-step:
- Place all supplies near where you will be inseminating, within hands reach
- Wash and dry your hands
- Relax, dim the lights, and put on music if you find it relaxing
- Prep the needless syringe by drawing back (sucking in air) and pushing the air out fully
- Slowly and gently draw the liquified donor sperm into the syringe in a single pull
- Lie down comfortably on your back, with a pillow under your bottom to raise your hips
- Check your cervix position by inserting your longest finger into your vagina
- Insert syringe into your vagina as far as it will go, gently aiming towards the cervix
- If you feel the syringe hit your cervix, back the syringe out a little
- Slowly express the semen from the syringe
- Once finished, place syringe on paper towel or hand towel
- If you are able to orgasm, it can be helpful for drawing the sperm in through the cervix (avoiding vaginal penetration)
- Remain in the lying down position for at least 30 minutes with your bottom still resting on the pillow and legs up
- Insert Instead Softcup (aka Softdisc) to hold sperm close to the cervix afterwards (for no longer than 12 hours max)
- You’re done!! Congratulations on your home insemination and best wishes for your two week wait!
An additional option for home insemination:
While not as widely available, there is an option to have an ICI or IUI performed by a midwife, either in the comfort of your own home or at their local office. This option is appealing due to it being less expensive than working with a fertility clinic and is worth looking into.
SingleMomsByChoice.org is run by single moms by choice for single moms by choice, dedicated to helping educate, enlighten and empower women who are thinking about or who have decided to have a child “on their own” through donor insemination, egg or embryo donation, adoption or other assisted means.