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What Is Insemination?

By Donna Johnson
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Insemination is a process by which sperm is introduced into the female reproductive system to assist with reproduction. There are different means of achieving this goal. Artificial insemination, the use of catheters or other medical devices to insert the sperm, is commonly used to breed animals or to help humans with various infertility issues conceive a child. Traumatic insemination is a form of insect reproduction that involves the male piercing the female's body rather than her genital area with the reproductive organ.

During artificial insemination in animals, a sperm sample is obtained from the desired male and inserted into the chosen female. This process allows the male to sire far more offspring than he could through physically mating with the females. It also improves the gene pool by enabling reproduction between only healthy animals and reducing the possibility of inbreeding. Controlled reproduction may also improve the male's temperament, which in turn decreases the chances of injury to other animals and their owner. When artificial insemination is used, fewer males are needed to facilitate reproduction, cutting down on care and feeding costs for the herd.

The procedure is part of the assisted reproductive technology available to people facing a number of fertility problems. If the infertility is caused by issues with the male, such as low sperm count or motility, donor sperm may be used. Sperm donation may be anonymously arranged through a sperm bank. In cases where a biological connection to the father is desired, a male relative may provide the sample.

Another form of artificial insemination used in humans is intrauterine insemination (IUI). In an IUI procedure, the sperm is introduced directly into the uterus rather than into the vagina or cervix. This process is commonly used in cases of female infertility caused by internal conditions that are harmful to sperm cells. Cervical mucus that is too thick, for example, can impede the sperm's travel into the uterus, and excessively acidic mucus may kill the cells. Inserting the sperm into the uterus allows it to bypass the cervix, giving it a higher chance of successful conception.

In the insect kingdom, the process may take place via traumatic insemination. Bedbugs, certain species of plant bugs and some spiders all reproduce using this method. When the male mounts the female, his penis penetrates her abdomen instead of her genitals. This process may be an evolutionary response to the female's ability to store or kill the sperm with secretions rather than allowing fertilization to occur.

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Discussion Comments

By rugbygirl — On Jan 21, 2012

@ElizaBennett - I agree that anyone who is considering something so drastic should carefully consider the possible impact on the child - think of it as a first act of parenthood.

The artificial insemination process, when it is done anonymously as it typical, makes a huge decision for the child that the child did not consent to. The *mother* may agree that she and her child have no right to know anything aout the father other than what is in his file, but the *child* never agreed. They have no say about how they're created or whether they will have any rights in this matter.

My intention isn't to slam women who do this. I'm sure most of them are fantastic mothers to good kids. It's just important to think about it from every angle. (And of course, artificial insemination and IUI, with husband's sperm or donor sperm, can be a godsend for infertile couples.)

By ElizaBennett — On Jan 20, 2012

Single women considering being artificially inseminated should know that the latest research is not a hundred percent encouraging about outcomes for these children. There was a recent study about this as well as a document, "The Kids Are All Right." Sometimes, they're not. It would be irresponsible not to check out this research for yourself if it's something you're considering.

It does seem to make a difference whether the kids born this way have the right to contact their biological father after age 18. But donors willing to go for this are hard to find and are often more expensive.

Another option for donor kids who want to know more about their background is the Donor Sibling Registry. This website allows children and parents to enter their donor number and find others who may have registered from the same donor - that is, their biological half-siblings.

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