Embryo Donation & Embryo Adoption

Embryo donation & embryo adoption overview

  • The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) often produces several embryos, yet only one or two are implanted during a fertility patient’s treatment.
  • The remaining embryos not used in treatment can be donated to another couple or patient who are not able to use or create their own embryos.
  • Patients who have genetic or other problems with their own eggs or sperm may choose to adopt a donated embryo rather than using donor eggs or sperm.

What is embryo donation?

During an IVF treatment, several eggs are retrieved and fertilized to create embryos. Multiple embryos offer the intended mother the best chance of pregnancy. The doctor implants a single embryo (or two if needed) into the woman’s uterus. The remaining, unused embryos are then preserved for later use using a process called cryopreservation.

Depending on the outcome of the IVF treatment, a couple or a woman may produce embryos that they will not use for future implantation. They must then decide what to do with their extra embryos.

Yearly storage of embryos can be costly, but if the couple decides to maintain the embryos in storage, they will have to pay those fees. Many couples choose embryo donation so another couple can experience the joys of pregnancy and parenthood.

A couple may also choose to donate their embryos to research or to have them discarded. Both are controversial options for some patients and require careful consideration and a thorough discussion with one’s fertility physician.

Embryo donors can be either known or anonymous. Known donors might be a couple who want to help friends or family members experiencing infertility. IVF patients can also give their embryos to embryo adoption agencies and be explicitly involved in the process of picking adoptive parents for their embryo.

Anonymous donors are not identified to the recipient. Prospective embryo adopters choose their embryo from an agency’s or fertility clinic’s donation database after reviewing the embryo donor’s medical and social profile.

What is embryo adoption?

Once a couple or a woman has decided to adopt an embryo, the intended mother will be medically evaluated in order to ensure that her uterus can carry a pregnancy and that her body will respond to the medicines involved with IVF treatment.

People interested in embryo adoption may choose to work with a traditional adoption agency that offers embryo adoption or with a fertility clinic that has obtained consent from their patients to donate unused embryos.

Many couples choose a donated embryo that will have similar ethnicity, hair and eye color, height and body type, academic capability, extracurricular interests, and family history that their own biological child might have had.

The donating parent(s) and the intended parent(s) will need to sign legal papers, similar to adoption papers, so that questions of biological versus legal parentage do not arise.

Benefits of embryo donation & adoption

  • The intended mother is able to experience pregnancy and give birth.
  • Unlike traditional adoption, the intended parents are involved in the development of their child from the earliest stages.
  • Embryos that have already been created through IVF are not “wasted” or discarded.