The Artificial Insemination Guide: How to Buy and Use Sperm

by Katharine Swan

So you and your partner have decided to have a child – you’ve even decided who will carry it. But for many lesbian mothers-to-be, the question is where to get the sperm – and how to perform the artificial insemination once you have it.

How and Where Do I Buy Sperm?

If you don’t already have a donor in mind, the first – and perhaps the most important – step is to find a reputable sperm bank. Take your time with this, and make sure you thoroughly research any sperm bank before purchasing anything from them. Once you verify that a sperm bank is authentic and meets your requirements, you will need to make other decisions, such as what kind of sperm you want and the donor profile you like best.

Protect Yourself: How to Screen a Sperm Bank

Not just anyone who sells sperm is an official sperm bank, and – like any other business – there are many scams and unmonitored businesses advertising their wares online. However, buying sperm from an unverified source is not only a bad idea – it could also be a danger to your health, and that of your child-to-be.

Golden Sperm

Authentic sperm banks have strict standards that control whose sperm they can accept. To protect yourself and your family, be sure to request a copy of their standards. A good sperm bank will go over donors’ medical information and family histories with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure your sperm bank screens out anyone with blood diseases; carriers of diseases such as Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis; and anyone with a history of serious medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, in their family.

Other questions that you might want to ask is how the sperm bank handles “ID Release” (what information they will release about the donor when the child turns 18), what cryptoprotectant they use in freezing the sperm (egg yolk can be an irritant), and whether they will notify you of any changes in the donor’s medical history. Additionally, you should make sure that the sperm bank is certified and licensed, because that will indicate that they meet state regulations.

Of course, the safest method of finding a sperm bank is to ask your doctor for a recommendation.

What to Buy, and How Much It Will Cost

Shopping at a sperm bank isn’t simply a matter of picking out a donor who meets your genetic and cosmetic criteria. There are several different “kinds” of sperm that you can buy, depending on what type of insemination procedure you will be undergoing. The cost of each vial, which provides enough for one insemination, generally ranges between $200 and $600, with some types of sperm costing more than others.

  • “Unwashed” sperm, or ICI, is used for cervical insemination. This procedure can be done either at the doctor’s office or in the comfort of your own home.
  • “Prewashed” sperm, or IUI, is used for uterine insemination – the sperm is inserted directly into the uterus through a catheter that bypasses the cervix. This type of sperm is the most expensive.
  • IVF, used in in-vitro fertilization procedures, is the cheapest type of sperm. Since the fertilization of the egg is done in the lab, less care has to be taken in readying the sperm for the procedure.

Delivery Options

Shipping is an important part of the process, because it is vital that your sperm arrives still frozen. To that end, you should make sure that the sperm bank you use will ship your order in nitrogen, which will ensure the sperm will remain frozen for a week or more.

You should also keep in mind that you may have to have the sperm shipped to your doctor, where you can pick it up if you are doing a home insemination. If shipping to your doctor is not an option, be sure that you look for a sperm bank that will ship directly to your home.

Artificial Insemination: How to Use the Sperm

If artificial insemination makes you nervous, your doctor can perform the procedure for you in her office. However, many lesbian couples decide that since having a baby is a decision they have made privately, the act of conceiving should be just as private. If you opt for home insemination, there are several different home insemination techniques you can use.

You will also need to thaw the sperm before you can use it. This is best done slowly, under running water. Run cool water over the vial to start, so that you don’t break the glass or kill the sperm. As the vial defrosts, you can gradual increase the temperature of the water, until the sperm reaches body temperature.

Each of the following home insemination techniques should be followed by an orgasm if possible (hence the “home” part). The cervical contractions of an orgasm are believed to help usher the sperm into the mother-to-be’s uterus. A vibrator can be used to stimulate her clitoris, but penetration is not recommended, as it could do more harm than good.

The Turkey Baster Technique

This technique uses a turkey baster or needleless syringe to deposit the semen just outside the cervix. The mother-to-be should lie on her back, using a pillow if necessary to raise her hips above her waist. Her partner then uses the turkey baster to inject the semen. Do not try to force the syringe through the cervix to inject the semen directly into the uterus – instead, try to get it on the cervix, and leave a little pool of semen right outside the door. If her partner can bring her to orgasm, the mother-to-be’s cervix will contract, opening the door for all the little soldiers.

The mother-to-be should remain lying down for about thirty minutes.

Using a Cervical Cap, Diaphragm, or Instead Cup

Home insemination can also be done using a cervical cap, diaphragm, or Instead cup. The Instead cup is the easiest because it is available over the counter, whereas the other two need to be fitted and prescribed by a doctor.

With this method, the cup is simply filled with the semen. The mother-to-be will need to insert the cup without spilling, so you might want to practice first! Again, your partner should try to give you “the big O” once the cup is in place. The cup should remain for several hours.

Using a Cervical Cap with an Insertion Tube

If you are worried about spilling the cervical cap when you insert it, you might want to consider using a cap with an insertion tube. The procedure does basically the same thing as the previous technique, except that you insert the empty cup first, and then add the semen using the insertion tube. However, this device will need to be prescribed by your doctor.

Let’s Go Sperm Shopping!

Thanks to sperm donors, sperm banks, and nice little devices like Instead cups, having a baby by artificial insemination is not only possible – it can also be a wholly private experience, a miracle shared just between you and your partner. However, you should be sure to research everything thoroughly, from the sperm banks you are considering, to the actual procedure of artificial insemination – the health of your baby depends upon it.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The Rainbow Babies provides sample contracts and legal/social health articles for informational purposes only—please do not consider it as legally-binding advice of any kind.