Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are two reproductive technologies; both involve impregnating a woman without using sexual intercourse. While artificial insemination is a simple procedure that has been available to couples since 1953, in vitro fertilization is more complex and has been around since 1978. These alternative methods of fertilization are very different in scope and execution, and there is no guarantee that either will work.
Artificial insemination is the process of impregnating a woman using donated sperm. The donated sperm is frozen and thawed for insemination, or newly ejaculated sperm is used. The sperm is placed in a catheter, which is then inserted into the cervix or the uterus. If successful, pregnancy occurs. In vitro fertilization is a more complex procedure. In vitro is Latin for "within the glass." This procedure is usually considered when other assisted reproduction technologies fail. With in vitro, egg cells are fertilized with sperm outside of the womb and then the embryo is implanted in the uterus of the woman. Before in vitro can take place, the woman's ovulation is hormonally controlled to find the most fertile period and then egg cells are removed from the ovaries. According to WebMD.com, "The eggs and sperm are placed in a glass dish and incubated with careful temperature, atmospheric and infection control for 48 to 120 hours." If fertilization takes place, the embryo is transferred to the womb.
Artificial insemination first began with farm animals. In an article on the University of Florida website states, "In 1899, Ivanoff of Russia pioneered AI research in birds, horses, cattle and sheep. He was apparently the first to successfully inseminate cattle artificially." The first human experiments with artificial insemination occurred during World War II in the Nazi concentration camps. The Soviet War Crimes Report on Auschwitz details such experiments. It is not known if any pregnancies or births resulted from these experiments. The first successful in vitro fertilization occurred in England in 1973, but it only lasted a few days. In July 1978, Louise Brown of England gave the first successful in vitro birth. She is considered the world's first "test tube baby," even though this is a misnomer. Researchers found success with in vitro from controlling and stimulating the ovaries and the production of eggs with drugs.
Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are available for infertile couples and also for single women and lesbians who don't have a male partner. Artificial insemination is a simple and inexpensive procedure compared to in vitro. But in vitro has an added benefit: It is also successful for women in their fifties and sixties who have gone through menopause. After menopause, there are no viable eggs for pregnancy, but the uterus still functions. In these cases, the egg used in the procedure is from an egg donor. Genetically the woman has no connection to the baby, but there is an emotional connection because she has carried the child for 9 months.
Artificial insemination has few side effects, but some doctors recommend fertility drugs to increase the chance of pregnancy. These drugs have possible side effects. The major concern with artificial insemination is that it doesn't work and that several attempts are needed before a woman becomes pregnant. The major complication of in vitro is the possibility of multiple births. This is the result of doctors implanting many embryos to increase the chances of pregnancy. But multiple births can lead to several problems, including the risk of miscarriage, pregnancy complications, premature births and neonatal (newborn) deaths.
Artificial insemination is a simple procedure and is usually the first option infertile couples choose. The success rate depends on many factors, such as the age of the women, her gynecological health, the egg quality and the sperm count. The average cost is $500, but prices vary widely. In vitro fertilization is far more expensive. For one cycle of in vitro fertilization, the cost ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. As for success rates of in vitro, a 2006 report of the Centers for Disease Control showed that age plays an important role. The reports states that women 35 years of age and younger have a 30 to 40 percent success rate if they use their own eggs. The success rate declines steadily as a woman grows older.