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Your Practical Guide to Immaculate Conception

Holly Zwalf is a queer solo parent by choice, smutty spoken word performer, and trashy novelist. When her baby was born she packed up the house and they drove around Australia for six months in a red polkadot teardrop camper. She blogs a...

Everything you need to know about DIY insemination (yep!)

Uterus User's Guide

So, you want to have a baby. Let me tell you a little story. Sometimes, when a man and a woman love each other very much as friends, the man puts some semen in a cup and gives it to the woman along with a pile of porn. What? That wasn't the story you were expecting?

Well, there are lots of ways to make a baby, but for many queer people as well as women who choose to be solo parents, home insemination is the easiest and cheapest method by far. There’s a misconception that anyone outside a traditional heterosexual relationship will need IVF in order to conceive, but that's not the case. IVF, of course, can become the only option for many people who struggle with fertility or who are using an anonymous donor. And let's be clear: IVF is not an easy road. It’s an incredibly expensive, painful and at times heartbreaking last resort. In fact, with a bit of luck and patience, most people who go the DIY route will be able to avoid fertility clinics altogether.

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Honestly, if you’re using a friend as the donor and they live nearby and if there are no known fertility issues, and if the donor has cleared all their STD tests, you’re much better off doing this the old-fashioned way. No, not having sex. Gross. I’m talking about at-home insemination. If you time it right with your ovulation, you statistically have almost the same chance of getting pregnant using the turkey-baster method as you would having intercourse with someone who produces sperm.

Ovulation tracking is the key to success here. There are strip tests you can pee on, home saliva tests, apps, special thermometers, cervical mucus monitoring and also a groovy but expensive toy that monitors your temperature from inside you and sends the information to an app, which is particularly effective for people with unpredictable cycles. Do your research about optimal times to inseminate, spend a few months listening to your body, and then you should be good to go.

It’s also important to check the legal situation in your country. As a general rule, it’s usually good to have a written contract; there are plenty of templates available online. It’s also often a good idea to have a friend present when you do the deed — one who can help out with the logistics and also confirm that the conception was indeed achieved through an insemination (as opposed to sex). If you’re like me and just want your donor to be involved as an uncle figure (i.e., not to have parental rights), then this stuff is especially important.

From here, it’s all pretty straightforward. Get your donor to deposit their, um, ingredient into a clean and warm receptacle. A small cup served at room temperature will do. Suck the semen up into the syringe, lie down, insert the syringe fully and squirt it in slowly (the idea is to coat the cervix). Then, tilt your pelvis with a pillow, put your legs up in the air against a wall and wait. It has been suggested that an orgasm at this point might help make your cervix contract and potentially suck the semen inside toward the egg — but it's not completely proven.

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Here's your basic list of DIY insemination do's and don’ts.


  • If you’re inseminating alone and want to hedge your bets by masturbating toward an ever-helpful orgasm, make sure you have porn within arm’s reach. Good porn. The last thing you want is to be lying there for half an hour trying desperately to get turned on when all you can think about is how your platonic pal's semen is now swishing around inside you. My first time, I had this idea that I wanted to conceive my child while thinking beautiful pure thoughts. I tried to give myself an orgasm this way, but I didn’t even get close. So, I decided on a compromise: queer PC porn on my phone. Problem was, half the people in the videos were my friends — which is a total mood-killer. I ended up crossing the finish line to some heteronormative bleached-blond cheerleader orgy soundtrack. Not quite the immaculate conception I’d had in mind.

  • Make sure you do the deed in a space that can provide privacy for you both. My first insemination attempt took place in a studio apartment with no private bedrooms, so I ended up nervously hanging the washing out in the courtyard while my friend did his business in my house. When he was finished, he ran off in a panic, leaving the offending jar on my kitchen bench. It was painfully awkward. If the donor lives near enough, some people choose to simply pick the jar up and drive it home for a more intimate session (you'll need to keep it warm on the drive by holding it between your legs or under a passenger's arm if someone is with you).

  • Pick out your holy grail carefully. Whether it’s a golden chalice or a Homer Simpson coffee mug (what? I have style), choose something that feels appropriate to capture that precious sperm.

Everything you need to know about DIY insemination (yep!)
Image: Courtesy of Holly Zwalf


  • Don’t use a turkey baster. That’s a bit of a myth. Instead, get a 5-milliliter medical syringe (not a needle syringe — one for liquid medicine) from your local drugstore. Or you can buy one of those fancy Softcups online that are designed to hold the semen up close to your cervix for a few hours.

  • Don’t leave the holy grail near your head. Once you’ve got all the semen in your syringe, move the cup far, far away. I repeatedly forget this vital step and find myself propped up against the wall with my legs in the air, empty cup sitting by my head while I make a face in disgust. Because for those who may not be aware of this, semen stinks. And once you’ve inseminated yourself, the idea is to stay still for half an hour, so if you’re alone, that leaves you stuck with the scent of your friend’s orgasm wafting up your nose.

  • Don’t forget to wash the holy grail out afterward. For the above reasons.

The most difficult thing of all is keeping your mind occupied for the next fortnight until you can take a pregnancy test. Try to wait the full two weeks, because testing any earlier can give you a false result. And good luck!

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