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GLOSSARY

Donor insemination

Donor insemination is a procedure where donor sperm is used to achieve pregnancy. This method typically refers to intrauterine insemination (IUI), but can also include intravaginal or intracervical insemination. Heterosexual couples may turn to donor insemination in cases where the male partner suffers from fertility issues, such as azoospermia or asthenospermia. This is also a common option for same-sex female couples.

What is donor insemination?

Donor insemination is a fertility treatment in which semen or sperm from a donor is used to attempt pregnancy. There are several different types of insemination procedures, but the most common form is intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which sperm are inserted directly into the uterus. Alternatively, intravaginal or intracervical insemination can also be employed.

Couples might turn to donor insemination for a number of different reasons. For one, couples experiencing male-factor infertility, such as azoospermia or oligospermia, may consider donor insemination.  Single females or same-sex female couples may also opt for donor insemination to start a family of their own. 

Donor insemination for male fertility

Donor insemination is one of many options for those experiencing male-factor infertility. Many patients first attempt assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures looking to conceive biological children of their own, such as ICSI, testicular sperm extraction (TESE), and testicular sperm aspiration (TESA).

Donor insemination is also an option for males suffering from hereditary disorders that they do not want to risk passing on. Couples that opt for this approach can turn either to sperm banks and fertility clinics to find their donor, or choose a personal acquaintance who can then donate via a fertility clinic. 

History of donor insemination

Sperm donation dates back to 1884 when Professor William Pancoast of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College inseminated the wife of a sterile Quaker merchant. Professor Pancoast injected the sperm of one of his medical students into her cervix, and she later achieved pregnancy. This was the first documented case of donor insemination.

Sperm donation increased in prominence  between the late 1980s and 1990s. However, as ART procedures have progressed over the last 40 years, donor insemination has become less common, as couples have a variety of options to conceive biological children.

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