Home Insemination vs. IUI: Which Should You Try?
by Marea Goodman
There is no one-size-fits-all way to make a baby. Whether you’re in a heterosexual relationship, have a same-sex partner, or are a solo parent by choice, everyone trying to conceive can benefit from more information about the different strategies available to you. In this article, we talk about different methods for baby-making: timed intercourse, home insemination, IUI, and medicated cycles. We will review the pros and cons of all of these methods and who might have the most success with each.
First Things First: How Do I Know When I’m Ovulating?
The first important step in getting pregnant with any of the following methods is to figure out your optimal timing.
As with all of these conception methods, the goal is to get sperm into your body during your ovulation phase. During the ovulation phase, your body prepares to release an egg from your ovaries into your fallopian tubes. When trying to get pregnant, the goal is to get sperm into our bodies as close to ovulation as possible.
So, how do you know when you are ovulating?
Humans ovulate about fourteen days before getting their periods. So this means that if your cycle is 28 days, you generally ovulate around day 14 (counting from the first day of your period). If your cycle is 33 days, you will likely ovulate on day 19.
Many people have some variation in their cycles, so it’s important to use other tools, besides counting backward, to figure out when ovulation occurs.
There are many ways to determine ovulation: tracking your fertile mucous, feeling or visualizing your cervix, taking your basal body temperature, and using an ovulation predictor kit. While all of these methods are useful, here we will focus on using an ovulation predictor kit to determine ideal insemination timing.
Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) measure the amount of luteinizing hormone in your urine. Luteinizing hormone is the hormone that your body releases which causes your ovaries to release an egg. Generally, your body starts producing this hormone one to four days before ovulation.
We recommend using ovulation predictor strips 4 days before your expected date of ovulation. Depending on the type of strips you use, your ovulation predictor kit will either tell you with words or symbols that you are in a pre-ovulatory phase or will show a faint line. When it tells you that you are ovulating, or shows a dark line, it means that it’s time to inseminate.
Important note: you can inseminate any time during your ovulation window, but you will get the best results if you inseminate the day before peak fertility and daily or every other day until 3 days post-peak. However, you want your sperm provider to have at least 24 hours between ejaculations in order to have enough time to build up their sperm count.
What if I Don’t Have a Regular Cycle?
If your cycle isn’t regular, check in with your doctor. Doing three months of acupuncture for fertility may help. Otherwise, it is generally recommended to try to conceive with medicated cycles (see the section below).
If you have a partner who has sperm, timed intercourse is a great method to start trying to conceive.
When using this strategy, try to time intercourse as soon as you get a positive on your ovulation predictor kit, as well as twenty-four hours later. If possible, you can also try to have intercourse twenty-four hours before getting your positive on your ovulation predictor kit. This will give your body the greatest chance to have sperm meet egg.
Home Insemination (ICI)
If you have a known donor or a partner who has sperm, home insemination (ICI) can be another effective option for your baby-making journey. Home insemination can also work if you are using ICI-ready frozen sperm from a bank. Home insemination, also known as Intracervical Insemination and sometimes called “The Turkey Baster Method”, is a method that places sperm directly at or near the cervical opening with the goal of conception. There are many ways to inseminate at home, and each has varying degrees of success. This can be a great option to try at home before moving on to more costly, invasive options.
When inseminating at home using fresh sperm, it’s important to inseminate within one hour of ejaculation. Some sperm can survive outside of the body for many hours, but some have a shorter life cycle (each person’s body is different), so it’s best to use it on the earlier side.
A note on anatomy: Your cervix is the opening of your uterus which is situated at the top of your vagina. So, when inseminating at home, the goal is to put the semen as far into the vagina as possible, right near the cervix.
Mosie Baby is an inclusive brand that makes a syringe designed exactly for this purpose, with a barrel-free tip and an opening that mirrors the anatomy of the cervix. Mosie has been clinically proven to have success rates equivalent to timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination (IUI). And you can use Mosie with fresh or frozen sperm! If you’re interested in trying The Mosie Kit for home insemination, use code RESCRIPTED10 for 10% off your next purchase.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is often the method that people go to if home inseminations haven’t yielded a pregnancy after several months of trying. During an IUI, washed sperm is placed directly into the uterus with the goal of conception.
IUIs are generally performed by trained healthcare professionals like midwives or doctors. Many midwives provide inseminations in the comfort of people’s homes, and doctors provide them at fertility clinics. Some insurance plans cover intrauterine inseminations, but not all do.
IUIs are useful for people whose sperm providers have sperm issues, intimacy issues, as well as for people using frozen IUI-ready sperm from a bank.
The IUI procedure itself is very simple. When you are ready, you will lie down on a medical exam table. When ready, the provider gently inserts a speculum into your vagina so that they can visualize their cervix. Then, using a long, flexible, and sterile catheter, they slowly deposit the sperm into your uterus.
This is a very simple and pain-free experience, although some people have some mild cramping and/or light bleeding following the IUI.
Similar to the other methods, we generally recommend timing the IUI about 24 hours after your positive on the ovulation predictor kit.
If using IUI-ready frozen sperm from a bank, it can be helpful to do two inseminations per cycle: one at twelve to twenty-four hours after the positive on the ovulation predictor kit and the second at thirty-six hours.
Medicated cycles are an option worth considering if you’re hoping to increase your chances of conception. With a medicated cycle, your fertility doctor will make sure your fallopian tubes are open through a hysterosalpingogram, and prescribe medications like Clomid, Femara, or gonadotropin injections. These medications help regulate your cycle if it’s irregular and can also be used to help you ovulate more than one egg.
Before beginning a medicated cycle, your doctor will want to perform an initial ultrasound to make sure that you don’t have any ovarian cysts. Once this is ruled out, they will prescribe the medication. About midway through a medicated cycle, your fertility doctor will perform another ultrasound, this time to determine the size and readiness of your eggs. Once the eggs reach the appropriate size, your doctor will administer a shot of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), to induce ovulation. They recommend inseminating about 36 hours after the hCG or “trigger” shot.
Some people use the combination of medicated cycles with timed intercourse or home insemination and have found success. Others do IUI during their medicated cycles. All are valid and personal options.
The combination of medicated cycles with insemination increases the eggs that your body releases, therefore increasing your chances of conception.
It is important to note that many people experience some side effects of the medication, notably mood swings, bloating, and sometimes, nausea. However, these medications are widely used and are considered safe as long as they are used under the care of a fertility doctor.
When trying to conceive, while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s important to know all of your options. The methods that make sense for you depend on your unique partner or donor situation, your body, your timeline, your budget, and so many other things. We hope the information here helps you feel empowered with options and helps you feel one step closer to choosing the path that best fits your unique journey. Building a family can be full of twists and turns and surprises along the way. If you end up needing to take a path you didn’t expect, know that you aren’t alone and that we’re here for you. Keeping our fingers crossed for you as you embark on your family-building journey!