Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
Many couples that are struggling with infertility choose to undergo artificial insemination procedures to help increase their chances of becoming pregnant. By inserting sperm directly into the female reproductive tract, it is much easier for sperm to reach the female egg thus aiding in conception. Intracervical insemination (ICI) is one of the more common types of artificial insemination procedures. It works to increase pregnancy rates by placing sperm directly into a woman’s cervix. This procedure is popular because it is non-invasive, painless, and relatively inexpensive.
What is Artificial Insemination?
Artificial insemination is the name given to any type of procedure that places sperm inside your reproductive tract through a method other than sexual intercourse. Artificial insemination is often used when a male partner is unable to ejaculate during intercourse or when a woman is experiencing difficulties with ovulation or cervical mucus. There are four main types of artificial insemination, including:
- IUI, or intrauterine insemination
- IVI, or intravaginal insemination
- ICI, or intracervical insemination
- ITI, or intratubal insemination
What is Intracervical Insemination?
ICI is one of the more commonly used types of artificial insemination. It is a painless and quick procedure that helps to deposit your partner’s sperm samples directly into your cervix. This can help to increase the chances that sperm will swim through your uterus and fallopian tubes, where they will fertilize an egg. Couples often opt for ICI because it is associated with good success rates and is less expensive than IUI procedures. ICI is typically performed by your reproductive specialist at your local fertility clinic.
Who Can Benefit from Intracervical Insemination?
ICI is of particular benefit to couples that are facing specific problems with their fertility. Couples who choose to undergo ICI are typically fertile and have no underlying problems with their reproductive organs. Couples often choose ICI when the male partner is having difficulty ejaculating during sexual intercourse, as the procedure allows the sperm to be placed inside the woman artificially. You may also choose to undergo ICI if you are:
- ovulating naturally
- ovulating as a result of Clomid, or other fertility drugs
- are using donor sperm
- are using a surrogate
Timing the Procedure
As with any artificial insemination procedure, ICI must be timed correctly in order to be successful. ICI is typically performed around the time of ovulation in order to ensure the greatest chances of conception. Blood or urine tests will be performed to check the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your body. When levels of LH surge, this indicates ovulation. Typically, ICI will be performed once within 24 hours and again within 12 hours of the initial procedure.
The Intracervical Insemination Procedure
The ICI procedure is relatively straightforward, and can be performed in less than ten minutes. It is typically performed by your reproductive endocrinologist or another health care provider at your local clinic:
- You will be asked to lie down on an examination table.
- A speculum is inserted in to your vagina. This is a plastic or metal instrument that helps to hold open your vagina and expose your cervix.
- A thin plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted into your vagina until it reaches your cervix.
- A syringe filled with your partner’s sperm is attached to the end of the catheter.
- The sperm sample is pushed out of the syringe and travels through the catheter, where it is deposited around your cervix.
- A soft sponge cap may be placed over your cervix in order to prevent leakage of any sperm. This sponge can be removed between six and eight hours after the procedure.
- You will be asked to rest for a short time after the procedure has been performed – typically, 30 minutes or so.
ICI success rates are about comparable to those associated with intravaginal insemination. Typical success rates range from about 5% to 30% per cycle, depending upon the quality of the sperm sample used and your own reproductive health. Insemination is typically performed twice each cycle, to increase the chances of pregnancy.
Sperm washing can help to boost your odds of success with ICI. Sperm washing is a preparation method used to weed out slower and less healthy sperm cells.
Costs of Intracervical Insemination
One of the reasons that ICI is so popular is because of the low costs associated with the procedure. One cycle of ICI typically costs between $200 and $350, unlike IUI, which can cost up to $600 a cycle. Many couples elect to have ICI performed because the low costs allow for more treatment cycles to be undertaken. Costs do rise if you choose to have your sperm washed or if you are using donor sperm.