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The sperm used in artificial insemination may be provided by either the woman's husband or partner (partner sperm) or by a known or anonymous sperm donor (see sperm donation (donor sperm)). The beneficiaries of artificial insemination are women who desire to give birth to their own child who may be single, women who are in a lesbian relationship or women who are in a heterosexual relationship but with a male partner who is infertile or who has a physical impairment which prevents full intercourse from taking place. Artificial insemination techniques were originally used mainly to assist heterosexual couples to conceive where they were having difficulties. With the advancement of techniques in this field, notably ICSI, the use of artificial insemination for such couples has largely been rendered unnecessary. However, there are still reasons why a couple would seek to use artificial insemination using the male partner's sperm. In the case of such couples, before artificial insemination is turned to as the solution, doctors will require an examination of both the male and female involved in order to remove any and all physical hindrances that are preventing them from naturally achieving a pregnancy including any factors which prevent the couple from having satisfactory sexual intercourse. The couple is also given a fertility test to determine the motility, number, and viability of the male's sperm and the success of the female's ovulation. From these tests, the doctor may or may not recommend a form of artificial insemination. The results of investigations may, for example, show that the woman's immune system may be rejecting her partner's sperm as invading molecules.[11] Women who have issues with the cervix – such as cervical scarring, cervical blockage from endometriosis, or thick cervical mucus – may also benefit from artificial insemination, since the sperm must pass through the cervix to result in fertilization.

Nowadays artificial insemination in humans is mainly used as a substitute for sexual intercourse for women without a male partner who wish to have their own children and who do so where sperm from a sperm donor is used. Donor sperm may be used in other ways, such as IVF and ICSI and a woman having a baby by a sperm donor will usually also have these methods available to her as alternatives to artificial insemination. Intracervical insemination is the easiest and most common insemination technique and can be used in the home for self-insemination without medical practitioner assistance.[12] Compared with natural insemination (i.e., insemination by sexual intercourse), artificial insemination can be more expensive and more invasive, and may require professional assistance.

Some countries have laws which restrict and regulate who can donate sperm and who is able to receive artificial insemination, and the consequences of such insemination. Some women who live in a jurisdiction which does not permit artificial insemination in the circumstance in which she finds herself may travel to another jurisdiction which permits it.

If the procedure is successful, the woman will conceive and carry a baby to term in the normal manner. A pregnancy resulting from artificial insemination is no different from a pregnancy achieved by sexual intercourse. In all cases of artificial insemination, the recipient woman will be the biological mother of any child produced, and the male whose sperm is used will be the biological father.

There are multiple methods used to obtain the semen necessary for artificial insemination. Some methods require only men, while others require a combination of a male and female. Those that require only men to obtain semen are masturbation or the aspiration of sperm by means of a puncture of the testicle and epydidymus. Methods of collecting semen that involve a combination of a male and female include interrupted intercourse, intercourse with a 'collection condom', or the post-coital aspiration of the semen from the vagina.

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