I awoke this morning to several direct messages asking if this was possible.
The story is that Morgan Beck, (who I now know is Bode Miller’s wife), accused his ex, Sara McKenna, of fishing a used condom out of the trash and inseminating herself. In Beck’s words: “Girls do crazy things for money . . . including taking condoms out of trash cans and locking themselves in a bathroom.”
I was intrigued. I admit it took me a little sorting out, less so because of the medicine and more so because A) I had to figure out who Bode Miller is (I knew skier and Olympics, but that’s about all) and B) wade through the paternity suits (he has 1 child with his wife, a child with Sara McKenna and one with another women not accused of self-inseminating, Chanel Johnson).
While McKenna was pregnant with Miller’s baby Miller proposed to Beck. He apparently initially denied paternity of McKenna’s child. McKenna and Miller had some back and forth arguing on Twitter (always the way to solve difficult personal issues involving children) and Miller (tweeting about McKenna) said: ‘There should be a mental health qualification for being allowed to participate in mass media #crazy.” Then there was a very contentious paternity case in which a Judge believed that Ms. McKenna essentially absconded with her unborn child when she moved from California to New York while pregnant to pursue her studies (this part of the case I did remember and I was aghast at such a judgement at the time).
But back to Beck’s words…”taking condoms out of trash cans and locking themselves in a bathroom.”
First of all, most condom failures are not women sprinting to a trash can before the sperm gets too cold, carefully retrieving a used condom without spilling any of the precious seed, dashing to the bathroom, sticking the condom in their vagina and swishing it around hoping for a home artificial intravaginal insemination (and fewer probably involve women who have a syringe at the ready to more efficiently extract the ejaculate from said used condom).
MOST condom failures happen because of people failures or condom failures. Condoms (or more typically the people who use them) are not perfect. Condoms break (often that goes unnoticed) and while that can just happen it is much more common if the condom isn’t put on correctly or the package was opened with teeth or the condom was expired. Condoms also slip if they are not held at the base during withdrawal after ejaculation. Some people also tempt fate with a little insertion before putting the condom on. These are the most typical condom failure scenarios, although I am sure it is possible that some people probably claim to their new partner (who they hope to marry) that they definitely used a condom correctly in their previous relationship when maybe they didn’t. And of course some people believe what they want to believe.
Home intravaginal insemination without the involvement of health care professionals is possible. Some couples use sperm from a known donor but want to keep things private and so come up with home insemination techniques, typically involving clean containers and a short time interval between collection and insemination. Since we don’t have good numbers on how often this happens it is hard to know the pregnancy rate, but it definitely happens successfully. I found one study with spinal cord injured male partners where semen was collected at home in a sterile cup and then a syringe was used for vaginal insemination and 17 of 45 couples became pregnant, but the study didn’t mention the number of times per cycle intravaginal insemination was attempted nor the total number of cycles it took to get pregnant.
However, the effectiveness of clandestine home intravaginal insemination with a used condom retrieved from a trash can is largely unstudied, but would depend on the following factors:
- Quality of the sperm (Miller is definitely not shooting blanks)
- Timing with ovulation
- Whether the condom had spermicide (lowers the risk of surviving sperm in the condom reservoir, but wouldn’t likely kill every one)
- The temperature of the trash can
- The length of time the condom was in the trash case
- The presence of semen-toxic products in the trash can
- The amount of ejaculate placed into the vagina (skill of retrieval and insemination)
People get pregnant from non penetrative sex (outercourse), so strong sperm can potentially swim from the labia to the Fallopian tube. With one good sperm, the right time of the month, and open tubes anything is possible.
Can one inseminate oneself with ejaculate from a used condom? Yes it is technically possible to get pregnant from a discarded semen-filled condom, but whether it is probable is entirely another matter.