What to Know About At-Home Insemination, From Experts and People Who’ve Done It

Starting a family isn't a linear journey, and sometimes, you might need extra help along the way. While in vitro fertilization has grown in popularity over the years, there's also another method that can help assist in the baby making process — and you can even do it in the comfort of your own home.

In the easiest of terms, at-home insemination, a type of artificial insemination also known as intracervical insemination (ICI), is the process of inserting sperm into a uterus outside of a physician's office in a way that doesn't involve intercourse. "Outside of that, there's a variance in exactly how it's performed and what kind of sperm someone might be using," Danielle Lane, MD, founder of Lane Fertility Institute, tells PS.

The use of fertility treatments as a whole have grown steadily over the years among a diverse population, including heterosexual and lesbian couples, as well as single women. According to the Pew Research Center, 42% of adults say they have used fertility treatments or personally know someone who has, which is up from 33% five years ago. And, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, procedures done in the comfort of your own home have become more attractive to people who may not want to be doing such intimate procedures in a doctor's office. A growing number of at-home insemination kits have also recently become available on the market, which only solidifies the increase in market demand for people choosing at-home insemination as their fertility method.

But there wasn't always this much choice available. Jennifer Hintzsche, PhD, for example, was told she had unexplained infertility when she was working in a cancer research lab. Her doctors recommended intrauterine insemination and after researching methods herself, she found out about at-home insemination. Dissatisfied by the syringes and supplies available on the market for at-home insemination, Dr. Hintzsche decided to order their own lab supplies and, with her husband, make her own at-home insemination kit. "The second month my daughter Lois, who is five, was conceived using our now patented method," she tells POPSUGAR. The kit, called PherDal, includes three sterile, single-use insemination syringes and three sterile, single-use collection cups.

Maureen Brown has a similar story. She also experienced unexplained infertility with her first child, who was conceived in a doctor's office. "That first journey for us to conceive was incredibly stressful," she says. "We were 0 for 30, it was two and a half years with no positives… it was daunting to think about doing that again." In search of a more cost-effective, less stressful method the second time around, Brown and her husband created Mosie Baby, and conceived their second child during their first cycle using it.

"Now is the time for people to understand that this is a process that they have access to," she says. "We've been on a mission to democratize access to family building and part of that is pushing the industry and pushing people to a place where they understand this is an additional option on their path to pregnancy."

But how exactly does at-home insemination work? And what risks should you consider? Here, we've compiled everything you need to know about at-home insemination — from a breakdown of the process to the benefits and risk.

How Do I Prepare For At-Home Insemination?

Before trying at-home insemination, Dr. Lane says it could be worth it to have a fertility check-up at your doctor's office. "It makes sense to at least make sure that you have a chance of getting pregnant using insemination as a technique before you invest what could end up being $10,000 to $15,000 worth of funds over four or five months to try and conceive and then finding out oh, my fallopian tubes are blocked," she says.

Dr. Lane also points out that many sperm banks — if you're going the donor route — may require a physician authorization before they release the sperm. "The potential liability is that someone gets pregnant and has a complication of pregnancy related to their health that could have and should have been picked up before they tried to conceive," she says. "In the space where you're doing fertility treatments, there's an expectation that someone has taken the time to evaluate whether the recipient is a good candidate for pregnancy."

How Do I Obtain Sperm For At-Home Insemination?

Beyond fertility testing, at-home insemination starts with sourcing the sperm. If you're using fresh sperm from a partner or a donor, they'll usually ejaculate into a sterile cup that can then be sucked up by the needleless syringe and deposited into the vagina — getting as close as possible to the cervix is key.

If you're relying on frozen donor sperm, there are numerous sperm banks out there that you can purchase from. Dr. Lane says the main thing you should be looking for in a bank is that the sperm has met FDA donor eligibility. "That means the donor has been screened for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, CMV, gonorrhea, chlamydia," Dr. Lane says. "He's had physical exams, and he's done that [STI] testing every six months."

Once you settle on a sperm donor, you'll receive the frozen donor sperm in the mail along with everything you need to complete the procedure, including syringes and cups for the sperm. When you're ready to inseminate, you'll thaw the sperm, prepare it in the syringe, and insert it into the vagina, just like you would with fresh sperm. You can use a cervical cap or menstrual disc following insemination to keep the sperm as close to the cervix as possible for a few hours.

Regardless of how you obtained the sperm, doctors recommend tracking your ovulation using ovulation test strips to determine the best possible window of time for you to inseminate.

How Much Does At-Home Insemination Cost?

The cost for at-home insemination varies for everyone, depending on whether or not you're purchasing sperm from a donor or using sperm you already have from a partner, friend, or someone else — the latter is, obviously, much cheaper. According to Cryos International, a Florida-based sperm bank, the cost "varies between $440 - $2,420 for the sperm and between $50 - $300 for shipping, depending on your preferences for donor profile, sperm motility, and delivery method."

Angelina Gonzales, 23, tells PS that she and her wife decided to try at-home insemination because it was the cheapest option for them to start a family of their own. Without this as an option, they would have had to wait at least a few years to save up the funds for IVF, with one round averaging $21,600 in the U.S., according to Carrot Fertility. They paid $639 for a vial of sperm from Cryobank America, and the couple didn't have to pay any shipping costs because they drove and picked it up instead of having it sent through the mail. "We took it back home and we inseminated that same day," Gonzales says.

Dani Morin, 36, decided to try at-home insemination after losing her first child, Deacon, in a tragic accident. She had initially thought about doing IVF — which she says would have cost her $14,000 for just one round — but a nurse at the fertility clinic recommended at-home insemination. Morin found a donor through Cryo International, purchased a vial of sperm and a syringe from Rite Aid, and became pregnant with her son after her first try. In all, she spent around $1,000. She's now engaged and planning on having a child with her fiance, but would have done at-home insemination again if she was single. "Had I not found somebody, I was going to get pregnant again this year," she tells PS. "I would 100% do it again, no questions asked."

While both Gonzales and Morin had successful results from their first rounds, that's not the case for everyone. Dr. Lane recommends saving up for at least four or five rounds of at-home insemination, estimating that the cost for people using sperm donors can equal around $2,500 a month.

Beyond purchasing sperm, costs can incur if an insemination kit, such as PherDal or Mosie Baby, is bought.

What Are the Risks of At-Home Insemination?

For starters, the insemination may not be successful. When it comes to success rates of at-home insemination, a 2017 study found that at-home insemination had success rates of 69 percent for people aged 20 to 33, 43 percent for people aged 33 to 36, and 25 percent for people aged 36 and older.

You also run the risk of infection, Dr. Lane says. That's why she strongly advises people who are using this method to partake in "clean technique," which includes meticulous handwashing, using gloves, and keeping all instruments clean (don't use a syringe or other device to inseminate if you dropped it on the floor, for example).

While sperm is usually obtained from a trusted partner or a sperm bank, there are other unconventional ways to get your hands on the stuff (apps, Facebook groups, etc.). For people going that route, Dr. Lane warns that the sperm is often not tested for the things she mentioned earlier — like HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, to name a few. "The potential downsides are fairly significant," she says. "If you're using sperm from outside a sperm bank, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of infectious disease testing and physical examination to ensure that the sperm donor is not going to transmit infection." There are also less legal protections in place when it comes to things like custody — for example, if you're using fresh sperm from a donor without going through a bank, there aren't many protections in place that could stop the mother from requesting child support or the donor requesting joint custody. Having a kid is a big deal, so making sure all of your boxes are checked before moving forward is essential.

If you're using a donor from a bank, the number of siblings your child may have is also hard to control. "It's not hard for a donor to donate to multiple banks. We don't have great ways of controlling that because we don't have a universal health care system, there isn't one repository where all of this data lives, which is different in other countries that have donation services available," Dr. Lane says. Currently, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that the limit for a single donor be 25 children per a population of 800,000 people to avoid any future danger of incest.

What Are the Benefits of At-Home Insemination?

For one, it's cost effective — and at-home insemination also makes starting a family more accessible to people of all walks of life.

"When it works, at-home insemination can be an incredibly valuable tool to a single woman or LGBTQ woman who really just doesn't have the resources to spend tens of thousands of dollars in fertility practices," Dr. Lane says.

Starting a family isn't a linear, one-size-fits-all journey. And if you find something that works for you — like at-home insemination — then that's all that really matters. "We forget that people are motivated to create a family out of love," Brown says. "These are people who are choosing to create their family in a way that is right for them in the privacy of their own home."

Elizabeth Gulino is a freelance journalist who specializes in topics relating to wellness, sex, relationships, work, money, lifestyle, and more. She spent four and a half years at Refinery29 as a senior writer and has worked for House Beautiful, Complex, and The Hollywood Reporter.