What Is Embryo Donation?

Embryo donation is a unique family building option that can help meet the needs of two groups of patients/clients: former infertility patients who are searching for closure for the unused frozen embryos they no longer will use for their own child bearing and current patients still struggling with infertility.

Though frozen embryo transfers have been utilized in reproductive medicine for many years, embryo donation only has gained more popularity as a viable treatment method in the last decade. Infertility providers require education and training on the special set of medical, mental health and legal challenges that embryo donation presents.

There are approximately 400,000 to 500,000 frozen embryos in storage in fertility clinics and reproductive facilities across the United States. Most couples or individuals who have cryopreserved embryos plan to use them in future family building efforts. Some who have completed their families or have circumstances (death, divorce or separation, postpartum complications and/or depletion of resources) that prevent them from trying to have (additional) children must consider their options: donate their embryos to scientific research, thaw and not use them, transfer the embryos during an infertile time (compassionate transfer), or donate them to another couple.

Embryo Recipients and Embryo Donors

Potential recipients are exploring embryo donation as a treatment for family building for a variety of reasons. They may wish to experience pregnancy, but have had multiple pregnancy losses unrelated to implantation or uterine issues, have had repeated IVF failures, or risk transmitting genetic problems to their offspring.

There also are non-medical factors that influence the decision to select embryo donation. Many want to experience a pregnancy, while others find embryo donation preferable to traditional adoption. Also some believe that using donor embryo, as opposed to sperm or egg donation, eliminates the imbalance when only one member of a couple has no genetic connection to their children. Embryo donation also is less expensive than egg donation.

Potential embryo donors have completed their family building, have frozen embryos in storage as the result of in vitro fertilization, and are considering various options for their disposition, such as donating embryos to another infertile individual or couple.