5 Things to Know About Embryo Donation

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After completing your family through IVF, you may find yourself in a position you never expected – more embryos than you know what to do with. If you have frozen, or cryopreserved, embryos that you don’t plan to use, you have several choices. You can continue to keep them stored for an annual fee, you can discard them, you can donate them to research, or you can donate them to another intended parent. In a process known as embryo donation, this allows the embryo(s) to be used by someone else to build their family. Whether you are donating or adopting, these are 5 important things to know about embryo donation.

What is embryo donation?

Embryo donation is a form of third party reproduction, a different version of sperm or egg donation. It allows a couple to experience pregnancy and become parents utilizing genetic material – in this case, fertilized embryos – provided by someone else. Often, when an intended parent undergoes in vitro fertilization, there will be multiple embryos remaining. Because technology has improved to the point that a single embryo transfer is often the most effective and efficient method, a couple may find that they have a surplus of healthy embryos they simply won’t use. The decision over what to do with these embryos can be challenging for many reasons; some couples decide that rather than discard what took so much time, effort and money to create, they’d like to give someone else a chance at a family.

Embryos can be donated anonymously through programs at fertility clinics, while embryo donation is a more in-depth process that often involves an agency to help with matching and logistics. You may come across the word “snowflake” when exploring your options. What is snowflake adoption? This is a term used to encourage the donation of frozen embryos left over from another couple’s IVF cycle.

What is the process to adopt an embryo?

According to the National Registry for Adoption, there are six key steps to embryo donation.

Step 1. Locate your donor embryos. This can be accomplished through a fertility clinic, agency, or even a friend or relative.

Step 2. Get your doctor’s approval. Ask your doctor to review the medical history and potential risk factors. You can request medical and embryo records in order to obtain the most accurate information.

Step 3. Sign a contract. Adopting an embryo is typically considered a property transfer, but your contract can be adjusted to language that reflects an adoption. Depending on your location, the adoption can be finalized in court. It’s generally not necessary.

Step 4. Arrange transportation for the embryos. The clinic that is storing the frozen embryos will provide the information necessary to have them shipped to your fertility clinic.

Step 5. Start taking medication. Once the embryos have arrived, your doctor will start your treatment protocol to prepare you for the transfer.

Step 6. Frozen embryo transfer. The big event! You’ll complete the transfer at your clinic, and about two weeks later will be able to take a pregnancy test.

What is the cost of embryo donation?

On average, embryo donation costs range from $10,000 to $15,000. If you’re working with an agency to locate an embryo, you can expect agency fees and matching services in addition to the cost of a legal contract and shipment of the embryos from the clinic where they were created.

This does not include the embryo transfer, however, and that cost can range from $4,000 to $8,000. Considering the fact that other forms of adoption may cost as much as $40,000, embryo donation can actually be one of the least expensive options.

Is embryo donation successful?

The average pregnancy success rate using embryo donation is 40%. Like many statistics, this will vary by program and fertility clinic. This number is slightly higher than standard IVF implantation success rates, generally because the donated or adopted embryos have undergone preimplantation genetic testing.

Embryo donation pros and cons

For intended parents, embryo donation allows them the experience of a pregnancy. They are able to control the prenatal environment and don’t run the risk of an donation falling through at the last second. Still, there are no legal guarantees with embryo donation. Because most states legally consider it a transfer of property, a contract that relinquishes parental rights may be considered invalid. It’s important to understand the laws in your state and have a solid contract between the genetic and adopting parents.

Another point to consider? Many couples desire the genetic connection of at least one parent. And while the parents who have successfully built their families through IVF have spent a great deal of time, energy and money to create the embryos, it’s an emotionally complex decision. They must come to terms with the fact that their genetic offspring – a full genetic sibling to their children – will be born into and raised in an entirely different family. It’s important to consider the implications of this decision, both for themselves and their children.

If you’re ready to learn about your options for creating and transferring embryos with the help of third party reproduction, our team is here to answer your questions!