What is ICI?

October 07, 2022

Read this Fairfax Cryobank blog to learn about intracervical insemination and find more information on what ICI is.

ICI (short for intracervical insemination) is a low-intervention type of artificial insemination that places sperm high in the vagina, close to the cervix. ICI is simple, relatively inexpensive, and carries very few risks or side effects. For many people who are trying to get pregnant with donor sperm, it is the first method they try to achieve conception.

How does ICI work?

Of the four types of artificial insemination (intracervical, intrauterine, intrauterine tuboperitoneal, and intratubal), ICI most closely mimics intercourse, depositing semen into the top of the vagina at the entrance to the cervix.

ICI can be performed by a doctor, in which case you go to their office during ovulation and receive insemination lying on your back on a table (in the same position you’re in for a pelvic exam). To inseminate you with ICI, the doctor inserts a specialty straw or needleless syringe as high as possible in the vagina, and then slowly ejects the sperm, mimicking the deposit of sperm that takes place during intercourse. Typically, you then wait in a supine position for about twenty minutes, and then you’re free to go home.

You can also do ICI by yourself or with a partner in your home, which can be a more relaxed and intimate setting to potentially conceive your child. You or your partner would use a needless syringe to slowly inject the semen deep into your vagina, and then you’d rest on your back with your legs hugged into your body. There is some research indicating that female orgasm increases the rate of conception by allowing the cervix to “dip down” into the deposited semen, effectively sucking it into the cervix. Thus, some people choose to orgasm during the twenty-minute waiting period after ICI. Other anecdotal techniques include inserting a menstrual cup or cervical cap after insemination and wearing it for the rest of the day, and/or using a fertility lubricant like BabyDance.

Who should try ICI?

ICI is an excellent low-intervention way to start trying to get pregnant for couples or single parents by choice who are using donor sperm to conceive. If you’re attempting ICI as the first step of a fertility journey, your doctor may recommend that you take fertility medication to increase your egg production before your first round of ICI.

They may also suggest that your donor or partner-provided sperm be washed (which increases rates of conception). If you’re using donor sperm from a sperm bank, it is easy to select prewashed sperm. If you’re getting sperm directly from a partner, friend, or another known donor, a sperm bank can assist by providing the washing services and then returning the sperm to you for your ICI cycle.

Expense, success rates, and side effects

ICI is painless (barring pre-existing pelvic pain that would be similarly triggered by any vaginal insertion), simple, and can be performed with prewashed or raw semen. Relative to other ART techniques, ICI is accessible and affordable. Pricing for an ICI cycle typically ranges from $200-$350, with additional fees for sperm washing (if desired) and for the cost of the sperm itself if you purchase it from a sperm bank.

The average success rate of ICI is between 10 and 15% per attempt (with that rate increasing with each additional attempt). It’s worth noting that ICI and IUI (which is more costly and invasive) have similar success rates.

Building your family, one step at a time

When you’re planning for how to conceive a child, the options can be overwhelming. Starting with the lowest intervention, the lowest-investment procedure makes sense for a lot of people—and ICI may be a wise choice for you. Talk to your fertility doctor about whether ICI is a good fit for you and your family.

Learn more about what type of sperm vials work best for ICI procedures.

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