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Remaining Embryos: What Do We Do Now?

Photo by Live Loved Photography

Through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF), millions of couples have been able to become pregnant, have several children and are now done building their family. Now these same couples find themselves with remaining frozen embryos in storage. Perhaps only one, perhaps more than 10 remain. Sound familiar?


I Never Expected to Have Leftover Embryos

When a family begins their IVF procedures their doctor will harvest and fertilize as many eggs as possible. This is true whether you use your own eggs or the eggs of a donor. If there are more than can be used for the 'fresh' embryo transfer cycle, the remainder will be cryogenically frozen for future pregnancy attempts. When your family building is completed and you have remaining embryos, you must determine what to do with them- often a difficult decision.

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What Can We Do?

When you first discussed IVF with your fertility clinic staff they likely had a discussion with you about your disposition choice for any potential remaining embryos. It's likely that you were so intent and hopeful about having your own baby that you don't remember that discussion! You may even signed some forms about it as part of your IVF consent package (filled with so very many pages!).

Your thoughts now that you are facing the dilemma of remaining embryos may be different than before you started your journey.

Your reaction regarding remaining embryos may range from shock to frustration to guilt to indifference. Your feelings may change throughout the process. A previous indifference to the discarding of remaining embryos may change to a sense of protection and concern for them after you have given birth to children from these same embryos.

Here are the basic choices available to you for any remaining frozen embryos you may have:

  • Keep them frozen.
  • Thaw them and discard them.
  • Donate them to science.
  • Donate them to another couple.

Yes, now that your family-building is completed, you can provide the ultimate gift: the donation of your frozen embryos to a couple who is unable to conceive.

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You Have a Choice
Yes! You may choose to donate your remaining embryos to another couple. The recipient couple may also be experiencing the heartbreak of infertility and may not have found success through medical procedures. Donor families have complete empathy with these couples.

Couples with remaining embryos are familiar with the physical and emotional struggles of infertility. Couples interested in adopting embryos have often gone through their own cycles of IVF unsuccessfully. In fact, many of the families who have had success with embryo adoption have previously experienced IVF.

The donors and the recipients have both experienced the same highs and lows of trying to conceive. Infertility is more common than many people know, with one out of seven couples experiencing it at some level.

FACT: Couples interested in adopting embryos have often gone through their own cycles of IVF unsuccessfully. You can fully relate to their frustrations and sorrows.

The recipient family may have biological children and are excited to add more children to their family through embryo adoption. They may have experienced successful domestic or international adoptions and are excited to experience pregnancy through embryo adoption. Embryo donation is a positive experience for the donors, adopters and embryos!

For you as the donating couple it is a life-affirming way to resolve a challenging dilemma. For the adopting family it can be a long awaited opportunity to experience pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

For the remaining frozen embryos it is the chance to be born and live in a loving family.

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You Can Choose Who Receives Your Embryos
You can have the peace of mind of having personally selected a family to raise your genetic child(ren). You also have the opportunity to have future contact with the adopting family to whatever extent both families are comfortable.

On the other hand, you may prefer to donate anonymously (except for medical information).

Agencies, clinics and attorneys will offer some variety of the donation approaches mentioned above. It is important that you evaluate your options and choose a provider who will meet your donation expectations.

At the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center, our mission is to encourage, but not facilitate, the donation of fertilized embryos to waiting couples.

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