At-home artificial insemination, often called the “turkey baster method,” is one way to conceive a child without the need for sexual intercourse.

Generally speaking, infertility physicians do not advise that would-be parents use at-home methods, but rather use the expertise and specialized equipment available at their offices. This includes tests to determine egg health and ovulation cycles, as well as other potential insemination methods, like in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

However, if an at-home method is something you’re committed to trying, here are some important things to know. 

What You’ll Need

No at-home artificial insemination kits are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or sanctioned by a medical group. Most of the kits sold online are repackaged goods that you can buy over the counter at your local pharmacy. 

They usually include:

  • an at-home ovulation detection kit
  • a small jar with lid for sperm sample collection
  • a needle-less syringe (looks like an oral medication syringe)
  • medical gloves
  • pillows, towels, and other items to make you more comfortable 

It’s important that all of the items used are sterile, and free of germs and debris. Thorough cleansing with germicidal soap and hot water are preferred.

While the method is called the “turkey baster method,” you shouldn’t use a turkey baster, especially a used one. Poultry — turkey and chicken, especially — are particularly susceptible to drug-resistant bacteria.

Securing a Sperm Donor

Most at-home artificial inseminations require a fresh sperm sample from a known donor, such as a friend. 

But just because there’s no intercourse involved, that doesn’t mean the man doesn’t have the same rights as a father. In 2010, a Virginia woman used donated sperm from a friend and a turkey baster to have a baby, assuming that because they didn’t have sex the man wasn’t entitled to parental rights. Well, five years later, an appellate court determined that the man was entitled to joint custody and visitation rights. 

It’s important to have legal paperwork for the sperm donor, spelling out exactly what’s expected of each party and whether the donor wants to waive his parental rights. It’s also important to have him professionally checked and cleared of any sexually transmitted diseases.

Anonymous semen samples purchased from legitimate sperm banks or infertility clinics have these and other issues sorted out. If you’re unsure about any of these concerns, consult an expert.

Performing Artificial Insemination

Use the ovulation kit to determine when your luteinizing hormone (LH) spikes, and prepare for insemination within the next 24 to 48 hours. This is when you’re most fertile. 

It’s important to keep surfaces and equipment clean from contamination. Using clean (or new) materials and wearing medical gloves can help prevent complications. 

  1. Have your donor donate a sperm sample into the jar. You can use a specialized collection condom, but don’t use a regular condom. Those typically have spermicidal lubricants meant to kill sperm.
  2. Collect the sperm from the jar by placing the end of the syringe inside and gently pulling back on the handle. Try to get as many air bubbles out before injection.
  3. Lay on your bed or floor with your hips slightly elevated. Place a towel underneath your hips to collect any spillage.
  4. Insert the syringe into your vagina and guide it towards your cervix. Then slowly inject the sperm to coat the cervix with as much of the sample as possible. Injecting too fast can lead to spillage.
  5. Some experts suggest bringing yourself to orgasm, as it prompts the cervix to collect the sperm. Clitoral stimulation is the preferred method in this case.
  6. Allow the sample to remain inside you for a half hour. Afterward, clean up any mess, wash your supplies with soap and water, and hope for the best.

Just as with a baby that is conceived through intercourse, at-home artificial insemination doesn’t work every time and may require multiple attempts.