ICI Vs. IUI Donor Sperm: Which is Better?

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More and more people are choosing at-home insemination as opposed to going to a clinic. The number one reason is comfort. Home is where we feel safe and secure and in familiar surroundings. And unlike sterile clinics or hospitals, there are no bright lights or strangers involved in an intimate process that may leave many of us feeling exposed and vulnerable.

At home, we’re surrounded by people who truly care for us without judgment or criticism. For instance, a nonbinary person may feel judged and stigmatized by the medical professional’s questions about their choice to get pregnant. Or couples may feel afraid to visit a clinic and risk their safety in the middle of a raging pandemic. During the pandemic, insemination was considered a nonessential service. Many couples, therefore, chose to opt for home insemination instead of waiting for fertility clinics to reopen.

In this article, we’ll discuss the two types of donor sperm, the differences between them, and which one to choose if you are considering home insemination.

What Is ICI & IUI?

Natural insemination is when a woman gets inseminated through sexual intercourse. On the other hand, artificial insemination is when the sperm is collected by the donor in a container and then inserted into the vagina using a syringe or transferred directly into the uterus.
There are two kinds of artificial insemination performed through a private sperm donor:

  • Intracervical Insemination (ICI) is done by putting the sperm into the vagina using a needleless syringe. This syringe is used to insert the sperm close to the cervix. In ICI, the sperm can only be placed on the cervix. The cervix then acts as a filter and allows the fertile (MOT) sperm to pass through to the uterus while the dead sperm is left behind.
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is done by putting the sperm directly into the uterus with a tube that goes through the cervix. This type of insemination gives the sperm a boost as it bypasses the cervix. Before the sperm is placed in the uterus it is washed using a process called sperm washing to remove the semen. The IUI procedure is almost always done by a medical professional but this doesn’t mean that it cannot be done at home. You can look for experienced midwives to perform IUI safely at home as well.

Everything You Need To Know About ICI Sperm Straws

Donor sperm is available in sperm banks as straws. ICI units contain naturally ejaculated sperm with plenty of motile (fertile and forward-moving) sperm cells. These units are then placed high in the vagina near the cervix all the way into the uterus and fallopian tubes. ICI units must be washed at the sperm bank before being placed into the uterus since unwashed sperm may lead to an allergic reaction or an infection. This is something you want to keep in mind if you plan on using a natural sperm donor instead of a sperm bank.

When performing home insemination, you can either opt for recently ejaculated fresh sperm from a donor or opt for frozen sperm from a sperm bank. You and your partner can also get genetic testing or testing for STIs done in advance at a hospital or clinic to make sure the sperm you’re using is 100% safe. Ovulation tests are a great way to find out your peak fertile periods. This is especially useful when you’re getting frozen sperm so that the timing matches perfectly and you have a greater chance of getting pregnant through artificial insemination.

For home insemination, the most common procedure is ICI using home insemination kits. These kits come with all the necessary tools and instructions. Getting the timing of the insemination right and having good quality sperm sample improves your chances of success.
ICI donor sperm works well for vaginal, home inseminations but what’s critical is the motile total (MOT), which is counted in millions per millimeter. For instance, MOT20+ will contain 10 million sperm cells whereas MOT10+ will only contain 5 million sperm cells. ICI sperm cells can also be used for ICSI and IVF treatment.

Everything You Need To Know About IUI Sperm Straws

IUI sperm cells are washed at the sperm bank and before cryopreservation, the motile sperm cells are separated. This ensures no further processing is required before the insemination process. These sperm cells are then directly placed inside the uterus during ovulation. This process is done by passing the catheter through the woman’s cervical canal. This way more sperm cells can reach the egg, thereby increasing the chances of fertilization when compared to sexual intercourse, especially as these units are placed at the time when the woman is ovulating.

When it comes to IUI, some researchers believe that MOT20+ sperm cells offer better chances of conception. If you’re using sperm from a sperm bank, make sure that it’s a reputed, and reliable place. Check for reviews online or visit in person and talk to the people in charge to ensure all necessary rules and regulations around sperm donation are being followed.

Artificial insemination is a fertility treatment that has helped same-sex couples, as well as single women and heterosexual couples. Get pregnant after they’ve had difficulty conceiving naturally. Both ICI and IUI are safe and effective treatment options.

According to a 2015 study conducted on 1843 women, there was no significant difference between the first six treatment cycles of IUI and ICI in terms of OPR. The cumulative OPRs for IUI were 40.5% whereas for ICI they were 37.9%. What did influence OPR negatively for both treatments was the female age of 32 years onward.
Some experts suggest that the main difference between the two fertility treatment options is that IUI can cost up to four times higher than ICI as the procedure is usually performed at a fertility clinic. We suggest that you do your research about your preferred insemination process so that you’re physically and mentally prepared for it. If you do have any questions, you can speak to a medical professional well in advance to clear your doubts about your chosen fertility treatment.

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