Artificial Insemination is the generic term for any procedure that introduces sperm into the female reproductive tract by means other than sexual intercourse.
The procedure involves a syringe, catheter or other specialized device for insemination. The sperm are deposited at the base of the cervix (vaginal insemination), in the cervix (intracervical insemination, ICI) or into the uterine cavity (intrauterine insemination, or IUI).
Vaginal inseminations require no special preparation of the sperm prior to placement, while IUI requires the sperm cells to be washed free from extraneous fluids prior to placement.
The fluids, or seminal plasma, cannot be placed into the uterus because of a hormone called prostaglandins which can cause serious cramping in the uterus.
Under most circumstances, sperm washing in the lab will remove enough of the prostaglandins to make IUI safe for your doctor, nurse, or midwife to perform insemination safely.
Artificial Insemination is performed for various reasons, the most common of which is when using sperm donation to achieve pregnancy.
In order to prevent infections, sperm donors and the specimens are routinely and repeatedly tested for pathogenic organisms (please see "donor standards") Regulations and testing procedures are so exhaustive there are no know cases of HIV transmission from using quarantined donor sperm specimens.
Additional risks include site reaction and cramping from products used to protect, freeze and wash the sperm specimen. Cramping may also occur with patients with extreme sensitivities if trace amounts of prostaglandins hormone are still present in the specimen.