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Insemination is the deliberate introduction of sperm into a female animal or plant for the purpose of impregnating or fertilizing the female for sexual reproduction. The sperm is introduced into the uterus of a mammal or the oviduct of an oviparous (egg-laying) animal.
In mammals, insemination normally takes place during, and as the result of, sexual intercourse between a male and a female, when the male ejaculates into the female's reproductive tract, but insemination can take place in ways not involving sexual intercourse. Each form of insemination has legal, moral and interpersonal implications. Whether insemination takes place naturally or by artificial means, however, the pregnancy and the progress of it will be the same.
Insemination may be called in vivo fertilisation (from in vivo meaning "within the living") because an egg is fertilized inside the body, and is thus essentially the opposite of in vitro fertilisation.
In plants, the process of insemination is referred to as pollination.
Insemination by sexual intercourse is technically referred to as "natural insemination" (NI) i.e. insemination by natural means. In humans, insemination or impregnation is most commonly performed by sexual intercourse with a male of the female's choosing, and sometimes not of her choosing. Natural insemination can be performed by the female's normal sexual partner or by a sperm donor (including a friend) ejaculating within a fertile female's reproductive tract during sexual intercourse.
In most cultures insemination by a male through sexual intercourse, whether the female's normal sex partner or not, is subject to social and sexual inhibitions and taboos, and has legal, moral and interpersonal implications. The incidence of natural insemination by sperm donor is usually a private matter.
Artificial insemination has been and continues to be commonly used in livestock breeding as an efficient way of increasing breeding. With artificial insemination, sperm is used to impregnate the female by direct deposit into the female's reproductive tract.
Similar techniques are used in the case of humans where artificial insemination is performed if a female cannot, for any of a number of reasons, conceive by natural insemination by a sexual partner of her choice or by a sperm donor. Artificial insemination techniques available include intracervical insemination and intrauterine insemination. The primary beneficiaries of artificial insemination are heterosexual couples suffering from male infertility, lesbian couples and single women. Compared to natural insemination, artificial insemination is more expensive and more invasive, and requires professional assistance.
Sperm from a female's male partner can also be used to impregnate the female artificially where, for example, the female's male partner is unable to perform sexual intercourse due to physical or psychological difficulties or where the male partner has died or the partner has a genetic disorder.
There are laws in some countries which restrict and regulate who can donate sperms and who is able to receive artificial insemination, and the consequences of such insemination. Subject to any regulations restricting who can obtain donor sperms, donor sperms are available to all women who, for whatever reason, want or need them. Some women living 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. (See Sperm donation laws by country.)
Other forms of insemination
In various other animal species, sperm can be introduced into the female's reproductive tract by various means. For example, in some species of hemiptera sperm can be introduced violently by traumatic insemination, parenteral injection through the body wall. In some species of animals, sperm finds its way through the body wall when the spermatophore is left in contact with the female's skin, such as in the onychophora.
- Internal fertilization
- Artificial insemination
- Assisted reproductive technology
- Conception device
- Sperm bank
- Sperm donation
- Traumatic insemination
- Photos of Honeybee´s insemination