For many people, the lack of ‘creative material’ be it sperm or ovum, can stymie their plans for a family. As appealing as the thought of backless nightgowns, fluorescent lighting and leg stirrups may be, the solution doesn’t have to be found in a fertility clinic. High costs and reduced funding for lesbian couples has made home insemination an increasingly popular option, particularly for those in the LGBT community.
Home insemination using a known donor can be a more rewarding process than a traditional clinic route, possibly resulting in a co-parenting agreement or at least some knowledge of whose sperm or egg you will be using.
Success rates of IVF or IUI within a clinic range from 5-25%. Home insemination has the same success rate and can be more successful due to the relaxed home environment and the freshness of the sperm. Other benefits include cost, privacy, comfort and the final say over who is involved in the process.
Somewhat unfortunately referred to as the Turkey Baster method, home insemination doesn’t have to be an actual turkey baster, (eye watering thought) but rather, a needleless syringe or soft-cup to hold the sperm around the cervix.
Home insemination does carry some risks though, both to your health and your legal rights, so it’s really important to be sure that it suits you and your future family.
When home insemination could be considered;
• When you are planning to co-parent with another single or couple, whom you know well, and a legal co-parenting agreement is in place.
• When you are in a civil partnership and you are planning to use a known donor with a legal sperm donor agreement in place.
• When the donor has had all their health screening checks, has no history of genetic disease in their family and has practiced safe sex for the last 6 months.
As importantly, when it should not be considered;
• When you are a single woman not planning to co-parent as the donor will always be the legal father in the eyes of the law.
• When you are a lesbian couple, but not in a civil partnership and not wishing to co-parent. Again, the donor will be the legal father in the eyes of the law.
• When you do not know your donor or co-parent well enough.
• When your donor has not given evidence of full health screening tests
• When your donor may be at risk of infection, (not practising safe sex, donating to other women by natural insemination, has ever been an intravenous drug user)
If you do find the right donor or co-parent, you may wish to start trying for a child right away. Before this, your donor must visit their doctor or local GUM clinic to get a complete series of infection screening, to include HIV, Hepatitis B & C, Chlamydia, CMV, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Genital herpes. (It is important to be aware that many of these tests will not show as positive if they have caught an infection within the last 28 days)
The woman should also consider getting tested for infections and get a vaginal swab taken to rule out any possible vaginosis or thrush. Bacterial vaginosis is present in as many as 20% of lesbians. It is not a sexually acquired infection, rather an imbalance in the natural bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis has been linked with reduced conception and higher risk of early miscarriage. There is now a new product, Zestica Conception Kit which prepares your vaginal flora to reduce the chance of infection.
The next important thing is to get legal advice and a properly drawn up legal donor or co-parenting agreement. This may be an extra expense, but will help prevent any potential problems, further down the line.
The Ins and Outs
Basically, all you need is a container of your chosen sperm and a syringe. However, there are ways to maximise your chances of success.
1) Choose latex free syringes – latex can damage sperm
2) Use a speculum and extender tip with the syringe. This ensures that the sperm reach the cervix and helps them on their journey.
3) Use a sperm friendly lubricant – the wrong lubricant can damage sperm, whereas a sperm friendly lubricant can help their motility.
4) Have an orgasm following insertion of the sperm, this causes the cervix to dip down into the sperm and again helps them on their journey.
5) Tilt and raise your pelvis with cushions for 30 minutes after insemination.
6) Use a soft-cup following insertion of the sperm (this is placed around the cervix and can be worn for up to 12 hours to keep them in their place)
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