All About Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Insemination simply refers to sperm entering the vagina, so artificial insemination means that the sperm is introduced into the vagina through artificial means. Believe it or not, artificial insemination is not only practiced in humans: it is a common practice in cattle breeding. Bull semen is collected in an “artificial vagina,”  and is introduced into the cow’s vagina in order to produce calves. This is much easier for cattle breeders to selectively breed for certain traits, as well as to avoid intermixing the bull with the cows (as bulls are known to be incredibly volatile creatures, and can get extremely violent around females).

How is it done? Semen is collected from the male, and then a fertility technician examines the sperm. He chooses the best, most healthy sperm and cleans them, then inserts them into the vagina using a needleless syringe, or potentially a syringe with a tube attached to it, in order to insert the sperm farther into the vagina. The sperm need to be cleaned because without the act of sexual intercourse and the accompanying semen, the woman`s body would likely have an allergic reaction to the sperm and would reject them.

Artificial insemination can be a huge help to couples who are having a hard time conceiving. There are a few causes of infertility for which artificial insemination can be quite helpful. The first cause is if there are issues with the male partner’s sperm count or sperm motility. Obviously, inserting the sperm far into the vagina would help combat that as a cause for infertility. It can also be helpful if the man has issues with ejaculation, such as retrograde ejaculation (where the semen is ejaculated into the man’s urinary bladder rather than through his penis). The next cause is an issue with the woman`s cervix being inhospitable to semen during sex, or preventing the semen from getting through into the uterus. The best option for a couple trying to conceive using artificial insemination is if there is no male partner. The women (or single woman) would choose sperm from a sperm bank or from a sperm donor, and would use that sperm to inseminate her. The last option for success in artificial insemination is if the cause for infertility is unidentified. Artificial insemination is far less invasive and less costly than in-vitro fertilization.

Artificial insemination can be a successful solution for many couples who struggle with infertility—it is said to increase the success for a couple (with one of the above reasons for infertility) in conceiving by double. It can be emotionally challenging for the partners to go through something like this, and those emotional implications needs to be seriously considered before the couple goes through this procedure. The huge advantage is that it does not involve hormone shots for either partner, and the procedures are outpatient procedures. The next option for an infertile couple is in-vitro insemination, which can be extremely difficult and challenging for a couple, so artificial insemination can be a great help!


Fertility Drugs and Childhood Leukemia

It can be immensely stressful and hugely challenging for a couple to go through a period of infertility when they want a child so badly. It can feel like they will never be able to conceive a child and that they will not be able to make their dreams of having a family come true. Fertility drugs like Clomid or other hormone drugs may seem like the perfect solution to the challenge of infertility.

There was a 2012 study that showed that the use of Clomid could be linked to a higher likelihood that the child conceived will get childhood leukemia. Headlines across the internet screamed “Fertility Drugs More than Double Chance of Leukemia.” That is a scary thing for a woman contemplating Clomid therapy to read. So what is the best way to approach this?

This study concluded that kids conceived to parents using certain hormone drugs for infertility were 2.6 times more likely than kids conceived without such drugs, to develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); the most common type of childhood leukemia. The bad news keeps coming; there is an increase by 2.3 times in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This is rough stuff. Leukemia is one of the scariest diagnoses a parent can hear for his or her child, and the thought that a parent could be doing something that would increase that chance is almost unbearable.

So where does that leave you, a couple trying to conceive a child and worried about using Clomid? As with everything else, it is up to you. As a parent (or a parent-to-be), you will likely encounter all sorts of things that will be linked with different cancers and diseases in retrospect.

There is a 2010 study that looked at a potential connection between fertility treatments and infant leukemia, which included the ALL diagnoses in infants. This study found no correlation or causation between the drugs and leukemia.

Between these two studies, it seems clear that more study is definitely needed in order to confidently state whether there is or is not a connection between Clomid and childhood leukemia. News websites love stories about childhood cancers, since they know these stories will be hugely popular, and will be clicked on by thousands of concerned parents.

In addition, to put these numbers into perspective, the chance of a child being diagnosed with childhood or infant leukemia is so small that for a child to have a risk of 2.6 times the normal risk is still extremely small. If you have a child who was conceived using Clomid, your best bet is to talk to your doctor about your concerns and about the potential risk your child faces.

If you have been infertile and are not sure about whether or not this should change your mind about using Clomid or hormone therapy, keep in mind that these drugs are still widely prescribed. Therefore, it seems clear that the medical community has not adopted the results of the 2012 study as a reason to stop prescribing these drugs. Each mother-to-be should make the decision for herself whether she will take on this potential risk for her child. There are risks inherent in every decision, and parenthood is a constant challenge to make the best decisions possible.

Tips for Getting Your Body Ready for Conception

The state of a woman’s body, as the site of conception and the place where the fetus grows into a baby able to survive on its own, is one of the most important factors in conceiving a child. As a mother-to-be, you may feel a tremendous responsibility to your future baby to provide them with the best start possible in life. You may be wondering, ‘What can I do now, before we start trying to conceive? Am I just thinking too far in advance?’

A few months before you start trying to conceive is the best time to prepare your body for conception and pregnancy! Here are some things you can do to prepare:

1)      Eat With Pregnancy in Mind

A good rule of thumb is to eat as if you are already pregnant. Make sure to eat enough calories; even if you are overweight, now is not the time to cut calories to try to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, try eating less processed foods and increase exercise rather than decreasing how much you eat. Eat when you are hungry. Make sure to eat plenty of good fats like coconut oil and fatty fish. If you are concerned about mercury content in fish, try to eat smaller fish like canned herring, and wild-caught salmon. Try to ensure that at least three-quarters of the food you eat is not processed: meat, fish, dairy, fruits, and vegetables should fill most of your plate, along with some whole, unprocessed grains like quinoa.


2)      Exercise

If you are a hard-core workout fiend, you can keep up the pace, but it may be beneficial to tone it down slightly. If you have not been exercising, start slow. Mild to moderate exercise each day will help maintain overall good health, reduce stress, and keep the blood flowing to your reproductive organs.

Mild exercise will also likely increase your sex drive, which will benefit your relationship and will help make it more likely to conceive in two ways. The first is that when your body is wanting to have sex, your cervical mucus will increase in volume and improve in consistency, the better to transport sperm into the cervix. The second way is that, with a better sex drive, you will be having more sex!


3)      Reduce Stress

Stress is likely the number-one reason couples are unable to conceive (although this is not able to be proven). The best thing to do is stay in touch with your partner, keep your relationship strong, and laugh a lot. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to start a family, which may unfortunately further delay conception. When your body is feeling stressed, it acts to prevent pregnancy, so it is best to keep stress levels low.


4)      Relax

This is somewhat related to the previous tip: don’t get so caught up in doing everything you can to try to get pregnant that you forget to relax and have fun! You are likely nervous and uncomfortable, wondering what the future will hold, but try to think about how you’ll remember this time once you have your full brood of kids!