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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 occurs during sexual intercourse when the male ejaculates into the female's reproductive tract, but insemination can take place in other ways, such as artificial insemination. 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.

Natural insemination[edit]

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. Natural insemination can be performed by the female's normal sexual partner or by a sperm donor 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[edit]

Artificial insemination is the introduction of sperm into the reproductive tract of a female by means other than sexual intercourse for the purpose of impregnating the female.

The most common use of artificial insemination in the case of humans is where 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 using donor sperm are lesbian couples, single women.[1] and heterosexual couples suffering from male infertility. Compared with natural insemination, artificial insemination may more invasive, and it may require professional assistance which will have a cost element.

In addition to situations where a female's partner suffers from male infertility, sperm from a female's male partner can also be used to impregnate the female artificially 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 sperm and who is able to receive artificial insemination, and the consequences of such insemination. Subject to any regulations restricting who can obtain donor sperm, donor sperm is available to all women who, for whatever reason, want or need it. 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 (a 'fertility destination') which permits it. (See Sperm donation laws by country.)

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.

Other forms of insemination[edit]

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.

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