Embryo Adoption: When Couples Can’t Conceive

When couples undergo in vitro fertilization, they often freeze several embryos in hopes that one takes. If they’re lucky and have a child, they could end up with extra embryos. The question for couples is what to do with them.

new parents baby 186x300 Embryo Adoption: When Couples Cant Conceive Photo

Embryo donation can give couples who can’t conceive a second chance at a family.

They can save them to extend their family in the future – while at the same time racking up hefty storage fees.

They can donate them to science for research purposes.

Or they can donate them to couples who have not been able to conceive on their own or through IVF.

The later is becoming a popular option for couples who want to experience pregnancy and childbirth on the path towards becoming parents. The most recent numbers show that there were 1,019 transfer cycles from donated embryos in 2011, which is up from 933 cycles in 2010. More than one third of those led to the birth of at least one child, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Couples interested in receiving a donated embryo first meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) to identify whether the mother would be capable of carrying a baby to term. If cleared, they can contact a fertility clinic or agency to find out more.

According to a recent article in Time Magazine, the experiences at each can vary and be similar to open or closed adoptions. At a clinic, most embryos change hands anonymously with only genetic information about the donor couple being shared with the recipients. Yet, at agencies, donor couples are often heavily involved in choosing and vetting the recipient couple, and might even request to stay in touch with their child after it’s born.

Cost can also vary widely, too, ranging from $5,000 to upwards of $18,000.

While it might seem like an ideal situation for IVF couples to donate eggs to couples who want a baby, the decision is often a hard one. In a recent survey from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine of more than 1,000 patients undergoing IVF, nearly 60 percent said they were “very unlikely” to donate their embryos to another couple trying to have a baby. Only 7 percent indicated they were “very likely” to consider this option.

But for the couples who do, donating an embryo can feel like giving their child a second chance – and giving another couple a chance at a family.