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Frequent Questions: Donating Parents

You have a choice!

  1. Exactly what are my choices regarding my remaining embryos?

    Donate Embryos for Attempted Pregnancy and Childbirth
    Some patients choose to donate their embryos to another infertile couple who would like to build their family. The donation process can be anonymous or you may choose the family who receives your embryos. Several agencies and clinics have programs to assist you. The web site contains detailed information, videos and personal stories about embryo donation and adoption.

    Release Remaining Embryos to Scientific Research
    Frozen embryos are used by scientists for experiments; including embryonic stem cell research. Talk to your physician to understand the qualification process and available programs.

    Keep the Remaining Embryos Frozen
    Couples who choose to keep their embryos frozen may not be done with their family building or may be facing unexpected personal issues that make it easier to simply keep them frozen. No "shelf-life" has been determined for frozen embryos. Children have been born from embryos that have been frozen for more than 12 years. You will pay annual storage fees to your clinic or your clinic may move your embryos off-site for long term storage at a cryo-bank.

    Dispose of the Remaining Embryos
    You may choose to discard your remaining embryos. Your clinic can explain their policies and procedures regarding this choice. Some people choose to have remaining embryos thawed and transferred into the mother's womb at a non-fertile time in her menstruation cycle. Some people choose have a type of ceremony to commemorate the embryos as they are thawed.

  2. What is embryo donation to another couple?

    Through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF), thousands of couples have been able to have children. After they have completed their family building through IVF many of these couples find themselves with remaining embryos in frozen storage. Now they must determine the destiny of those remaining embryos - often a difficult decision.

    Couples with remaining embryos may choose to donate them to another couple. Embryo donation is a positive experience for the donors, adopters and embryos! For 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 embryos it is the chance to grow, be born and live in a loving family.

  3. How is embryo adoption different from embryo donation?

    Anonymous donation programs are generally managed by fertility clinics, which receive donated embryos to be given anonymously to whomever the clinic chooses. Known donation programs give the donating family the option of choosing the receiving family and they can mutually determine the level of future interaction between families. There are websites that assist donating and receiving families to privately match with one another, establishing a context for a known donation.

    Adoption programs regard embryo donation as equivalent to a traditional adoption process since the hoped for outcome is the birth of a child. They will offer similar assistance and services as with a domestic adoption.

    Typically, placing or donating parents tend to use the term 'donation', while receiving or adopting couples tend to use the term 'adoption'. The basis for this is largely psychological. Donation is used in the sense of 'giving a gift' and offers an emotional separation from the embryos that the phrase 'placing for adoption' does not. Yet for the family wanting to parent the children born from such a gift, the term 'adoption' makes more emotional sense. It is the term that both legally and socially explains the transfer of parental rights associated with traditional adoption. Adoption also helps to describe and explain to their child the way in which they became a family, since children are 'adopted' rather than 'donated'. Frequently the terms are used interchangeably like the words lawyer and attorney.

  4. Why would placing parents choose embryo adoption instead of donation? Embryo adoption provides the same safeguards that the traditional adoption process offers. The placing family knows that the family they have chosen to parent their child has been screened for a criminal history and child abuse record, as well as educated about how to parent an adopted child. The placing parents have the peace of mind of having personally selected a family to raise their genetic child. They also have the opportunity to have contact with the adopting family to whatever extent both families are comfortable. The children, full genetic siblings, would also have the opportunity to connect later on if they desired.

    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. Infertility is more common than many people know.

    The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has estimated the following sterility rates among women by age group:
    Age in Years = Risk of Childlessness (%)
    20-24 = 5.7%
    25-29 = 9.3%
    30-34 = 15.5%
    35-39 = 29.6%
    40-44 = 63.6%

    In the U.S. women are tending to postpone initial efforts of childbearing into their late 30s and early 40s. As seen in the chart above, success in childbearing, using her own eggs, decreases significantly in these older age brackets. This may contribute to unsuccessful IVF treatments.

    Donated frozen embryos may be more likely to produce pregnancy in the adopting mother since children have already been born from the same set of created embryos.

  5. Why would adopting parents choose embryo adoption instead of donation? The adopting family has a chance to have a relationship with their child's placing family. Whether they share pictures and letters, have telephone conversations or choose to meet the placing parents, the adopting family will know that they have access to information about their child's history, as well as a possible match for any future medical need, such as an organ donation or blood or bone marrow transplants. The agency is available to facilitate communication between the families. The agency will educate and work with the adoptive family about how to talk to their child(ren) about their unique conception and adoption-related issues.

  6. Why would adopting parents choose embryo adoption instead of traditional adoption of a newborn? The most obvious difference between an embryo adoption and a traditional adoption is the pregnancy experience. Adoptive mothers are able to experience the joys (and burdens!) of pregnancy and labor. They also have the peace of mind of knowing their children received the appropriate prenatal care and were not exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. There are, of course, certain considerations involved in embryo adoption that are not present in traditional adoption. For instance, because more than one embryo is implanted during the transfer procedure, an adoptive couple might have twins or triplets.

  7. Is this really adoption? Under current law adoption only applies to the placement of a child after they are born. While adoption law is not applicable to the embryo donation and adoption process, embryo adoption agencies will apply the rigors of the adoption process. The adopting parents' relationship with the child(ren) is just as binding as a legal adoption. Experienced embryo adoption agencies will have legal documentation for both parties that have successfully been used by many matched families.

  8. What kind of factors influence whether a family is interested in donating their embryos?

    When a family begins their IVF procedures, they may be either unaware or unconcerned that a surplus of embryos will be created as "insurance" for additional attempts at pregnancy. When their family building using their embryos is completed and they have remaining embryos, they must determine what to do with them. The reactions can range from shock to frustration to guilt when they realize the magnitude of the situation facing them. These feelings can change their previous indifference at discarding the embryos to a sense of protection and concern for them instead.

    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. Infertility is more common than many people know.

    The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has estimated the following sterility rates among women by age group:

      Age in Years = Risk of Childlessness (%)
      20-24 = 5.7%
      25-29 = 9.3%
      30-34 = 15.5%
      35-39 = 29.6%
      40-44 = 63.6%

    In the U.S. women are tending to postpone initial efforts of childbearing into their late 30s and early 40s. As seen in the chart above, success in childbearing, using her own eggs, decreases significantly in these older age brackets. This may contribute to unsuccessful IVF treatments.

    Donated frozen embryos may be more likely to produce pregnancy in the adopting mother since children have already been born from the same set of created embryos.

    When considering embryo donation families will find they do have a choice in how to donate their embryos. Some may prefer to donate completely anonymously (except for medical information). Some may wish to have input into the type of family who receives their embryos, but desire minimal contact with the family. Still others are committed to establishing various levels of regular communication with the adopting family.

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

  9. What are the benefits of embryo donation through an agency?

    Embryo adoption agencies, unlike the typical donation program, offer families the same safeguards and education available in a traditional adoption. This includes a home study which is conducted for the adopting family and includes criminal screening and adoption education. They allow both the placing and adopting families to participate in the selection of each other. In an anonymous embryo donation, most often, a doctor in a clinic decides to whom embryos are given. An agency recognizes the importance of counseling for all parties involved, especially counseling to the adopting family on the best approaches to educating their child regarding his/her adoption.

    An agency already has in place a set of legal documents that can be customized to fit each embryo adoption situation. These legal documents are well organized and contain all of the special considerations for embryo adoption. Embryo adoption is not recognized as an adoption by law, but as an exchange of property. In a standard adoption, the child must be born prior to being adopted.

    The adoption agency will also help coordinate the transportation of embryos from the donating family's clinic to the adopting family's clinic in the safest possible way.

    An adoption agency will provide the families with post-adoption counseling assistance as well as provide a support network with other embryo donating and adopting families. They will assist in communication between the two families as determined by the families.

  10. Legally, what is the relationship between the adoptive parents and any child born following embryo donation? At the time of birth the adoptive couple is fully recognized as the legal parents to any children who are born. The mother who physically gives birth is recognized as the legal mother and the man to whom she is married at the time of pregnancy and birth is recognized as the legal father of the child(ren). These individuals are noted as the legal mother and legal father on the birth certificate(s).

  11. Will offering embryos for adoption prevent waiting, available children from being adopted?

    Embryo adoption is a family building alternative. Couples should evaluate the pros and cons of all of the adoption alternatives available to them and make the choice that is right for their family.

    If newborns were available at the same rate as embryos, many adopting families would most likely take the child already born, since there is no guarantee of a pregnancy with embryo adoption and donation. However, there are many families for whom the possibility of being able to experience pregnancy is a crucial factor in their decision to pursue embryo adoption over traditional adoption.

    It is also important to keep in mind that some families may not necessarily be open to adopting children over a certain age or sibling groups and families ready to open their homes to a foster situation may not desire to give birth to babies.

  12. How do we get started?

    Continue to look through our website to gain more information on embryo adoption/donation and to hear from other people who have been donors or recipients. The Personal Experiences section includes several testimonies of people's experiences with donating or adopting embryos. Our Videos inform about the frozen embryo situation and portray the decision-making process of donating and adopting families. There is also a list of linked Articles on embryo adoption. If you decide to donate your embryos or to adopt embryos, click on the Finding Help section. We have listed the fertility clinics, adoption agencies, and adoption attorneys for each state so that you have access to resources available in each step of the process. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us.

About Your Remaining Embryos

  1. How do we determine where we should store our remaining embryos?

    Many clinics will freeze and store your embryos at their facility for an annual fee. Most families choose this option because they have not completed their family building.

    However, when they have completed their own family, some parents have difficulty determining the future for their remaining embryos; donation, discarding, research or leave them frozen. As a result, the number of remaining embryos continues to increase.

    Each year when a couple receives their annual storage fee invoice, they have another opportunity to face this decision. Some clinics will only store embryos for a certain number of years. One clinic will one store them on-site for one year and then automatically transfers them to a long-term storage facility. Several cryo-banks have been established for long-term storage of embryos [they may also store other human tissues].

    But please heed this word of caution: some cryo-banks that store your embryos require that you relinquish all control once the embryos are in their facility. Some cryo-bank charge hefty fees to get your embryos out of their facility - for your own personal use or for fulfilling your desire to donate them. In addition, certain centers may sell your embryos for profit.

    When you are making a decision regarding your embryos, it is important to carefully and completely research all of the facility's policies in order to ensure all options for your embryos remain in your control.

  2. What if our clinic (or we) wants to move our embryos to long-term storage at a cryo-bank? Some clinics have time limits regarding storage of your embryos at their facility. After that time limit has expired they may require you to move your embryos to an off-site facility (a cryo-bank) or give you the option to have your embryos discarded.

    If you, or your clinic, are considering moving your frozen embryos to a cryo-bank it is critical for you to understand the rules governing the storage of your embryos and your ability to have your embryos returned to your control and possession.

    In an effort to more stringently follow FDA rules for embryo donation and storage, some cryo-banks have created fee schedules to cover their expenses and these fees can make it difficult for the family who wishes to donate their embryos to another couple to get them released from storage.

    Be sure to read the fine print and understand the requirements and costs of storage and removal from storage at any cryo-bank facility.

  3. What is the success rate of frozen embryo transfers (FETs)? The success rate for FETs is the same as those from fresh embryo cycles. In some cases, success is more likely because the womans uterus and body have not just had surgery for egg retrieval. Also, because the uterus and body have not been stimulated for egg production, her body is more receptive to pregnancy and will not have any residual effects of the drugs used to stimulate the ovaries that can be harmful to a pregnancy. In some ways, FETs are more successful. For example, babies from frozen embryos had higher birth weights than babies born from fresh embryos.

  4. Are there limits regarding the acceptance of donated embryos? Healthy children have been born from embryos that had been frozen for more than 12 years. Most experienced embryo adoption agencies will not stipulate a maximize cryo-preservation time limit. They generally will accept all embryo donations regardless of the genetic mother's age, length of storage, medical grading or stage of embryo development. All of these items will be disclosed to the potential adopting family as a part of the matching process.

  5. How long can embryos be used after they are frozen? Frozen embryos do not expire. The reproductive tissue is frozen and would be ready for implantation after thawing when the adopting couple is ready for their frozen embryo transfer. Embryos that have been frozen for more than 10 years have resulted in healthy pregnancies.

  6. What will happen to my frozen embryos if I choose not to donate them to another family?

    We understand the difficult decision parents are faced with when they realize they have embryos they don't plan to transfer. Should you choose not to donate your embryos, the options are to destroy them in the process of medical research, allow them to thaw and die, or do nothing and keep them in storage until a later time.

    If none of those options feel right for you, perhaps you should reconsider the compassionate and caring option of helping another infertile couple build their family. Embryo donation and adoption provides a way for you to select a couple who will receive the embryos. You can be involved as little, or as much, in the matching process as you would like.

  7. What is an anonymous embryo donation? An anonymous donation occurs when donors and recipients do not know one another's identities. No contact is made between the donor or the recipient, either now or in the future. Anonymous donation most often takes place through an IVF clinic, but may also take place through an adoption agency. Most clinics that have an embryo donation program provide very limited information to the recipients about the donors. Donors are rarely involved in the process of selecting recipients, but are sometimes permitted to set stipulations for eligibility to receive their donation. Of course medical information about the donated embryos is provided to the recipient.

  8. Can a family who only has one embryo in storage donate that one embryo to a recipient couple? Yes. Because embryo adoption programs typically work with embryos in varying numbers from more than one clinic, it is possible for a donating family with only one embryo, in conjunction with another donating family with more embryos, to be able to offer that embryo to a recipient couple. In the event that embryos from both families are transferred at the same time and a pregnancy results, a DNA test should be performed upon birth of the child to determine the genetic parents of the child.

  9. Are there families who would be interested in receiving embryos on which there is limited medical background and information? This type of situation can be analogized to the domestic adoption where the birth mother doesn't know who the birth father is, and yet the child is still adopted. There are families who are willing to work with a situation where there is limited information available on the embryos being offered.

  10. If we used an anonymous egg or sperm donor when we created our embryos, can we still place them for adoption? If the contract you signed with the donor does not specify that the eggs or sperm are for your personal reproductive use only, you can place the embryos with another family. FDA rules and regulations need to be followed. In addition, you will also need to provide any information you have about the donor (i.e. donor profile). Verification of the donor's infectious disease screen results must be obtained from either the donor agency or your clinic.

  11. The doctor said our embryos are not good quality. Can we still give them to another family? Yes. Some programs have eligibility requirements for embryos, others do not. Be sure to research all your options. Embryo adoption programs tend to be more open to receiving any number or quality of embryos and work diligently to place all embryos in loving families. Many healthy children have been born from embryos given a poor quality rating.

  12. Does the age of the embryos (date frozen) affect our ability to place them for adoption? While there have been no definitive studies proving how long embryos can stay frozen and remain viable, some programs or clinics may set limits regarding the length of time embryos have been frozen and whether they will accept them.

    In September 2010, a baby was born in New Zealand from an embryo which had been frozen for twenty years. There are quite a number of other instances where embryos which have been stored over 10 or more years have resulted in successful pregnancies.

  13. Are there limits on the number of times embryos may be donated?

    It is in the best interests of the children involved that all of a family's embryos be placed with one adopting family in the hopes that one family will give birth to all the siblings from a group of embryos.

    Should the adopting family complete their family building without using all of the adopted embryos, the adopted embryos should be returned to the original donating family. It will be this family's decision whether to place the embryos with a second adopting family.

    When a clinic is managing the embryo donation and it is an anonymous, non-directed donation, the clinic will determine how the donated embryos are distributed to recipients. Embryos from one donor may be given to multiple recipients.

Practicalities of Donating Your Embryos

  1. Can the donating family have input regarding who receives their embryos?

    The level of input will be determined by the fertility clinic or adoption agency through which they are being donated. Frequently donations made through a clinic are anonymous donations. The donor may be able to specify some parameters for the recipient couple. Some clinic programs will allow directed donations.

    A donor will generally experience a greater level of control through an agency. They can choose the family who will receive their embryos and determine the future level of contact they will have with the family should they successfully bear children from the donated embryos.

  2. How do donating and adopting families find each other? Usually donating families and recipient/adopting families are matched through a fertility clinic or agency. Sometimes donating families self-direct their donation to a couple they have chosen independent of an agency or clinic. There is now an online matching service where donating and recipient families register with their particular profile stipulations and then independently search the listings to find a potential match. Email messages are exchanged the parties determine if the match is final. The service does not match parties, provide legal services, clinic referrals or donor/recipient screening. All of these services must be secured independently.

  3. What type of information will we receive about the adopting parents and their embryos?

    When you are working with an embryo adoption agency to place your embryos, you will receive a profile from the adopting family. The profile will include information to help you determine if this may be the family for your donation. You will receive a medical health history, a family profile including information about the parents of the couple and frequently pictures.

    Each agency follows its own process for matching donors to adopters, but generally you have an opportunity to set parameters around the characteristics you hope to find in the adopting family: age, length of marriage, income, other children, schooling, etc.

  4. How are placing and adopting families matched?

    The matching process includes the following steps:

    1. Both donating and adopting parents provide the adoption agency or attorney with information about themselves and indicate the type of adopting/donating family they desire.

    2. Donating parents indicate their preferences regarding the age, income, post-birth work plans, religion, prior marriages, existing children in the family, and race of the adopting families as well as their desire for future contact.

    3. Assuming an adopting family matches these criteria, their introductory letter, biography, and photographs are sent to the donating parents for consideration and possible selection.

    4. If the adopting family is selected, then the donating parents' profile information (introductory letter, biography and photographs), and medical health history are sent to the adopting family for their consideration and possible selection.

    There are additional ways for donating and adopting parents to be matched without an attorney or agency. Some IVF clinics will facilitate the matching process, or matches sometimes come about through word of mouth or by searching the Internet. These Internet profiles allow an interested party to find a profile that fits their criteria and make contact through email. When considering these options, keep in mind that an attorney or agency can be beneficial in mediating communication between the parties, to provide the safeguards that a traditional adoption offers, and to offer education and assistance throughout the process.

  5. Does embryo adoption have to be open? No, embryo adoptions do not have to be open, but open adoption encompasses a wide spectrum of contact. There is usually no requirement that families meet, exchange last names or other identifying information, but at a minimum, each family will select each other through the presentation of an introductory letter, biography, and small selection of photographs that they each have personally prepared. All such adoptions are considered open. Whether a family wants more contact (via e-mail, telephone, photographs, and letters, sent either directly or through an adoption agency, attorney, or other intermediary) or less contact, families with similar levels of desired contact are able to be matched with one another.

  6. What is involved after a match is made?

    In the embryo adoption process, using an experienced agency, the agency will have requested the adopting family to complete an adoption home study. The adopting family will have determined if their clinic of choice will accept embryos from another clinic and if they are willing to perform a frozen embryo transfer (FET) using those embryos. The agency will help them with any testing or screening procedures required of them or the donating family. The agency will coordinate the legal contracts. The agency will coordinate the physical transfer of the embryos from one clinic to another.

  7. Could the children from the embryo donation inadvertently meet their siblings and reproduce? This is a common question asked by embryo, sperm and egg donors. The risk is negligible according to published guidelines and basic statistics. If one couple donates cryopreserved embryos, the chance of accidentally meeting and mating with a sibling is extremely unlikely. Anonymously donating your embryos to someone in a different state will further minimize the risk. Donating your embryos in an open embryo adoption is the best alternative to virtually eliminate this risk. For further information visit the American Society of Reproductive Medicine website.

  8. Is it more important to match according to physical attributes or to other characteristics?

    Families who are receiving embryos typically want children that will look like their family (with similar heredity).

    The donating families are concerned with the physical appearance but are also interested in other characteristics that usually are similar to their own such as education, religion, if the mother will work or stay at home, the number of other children in the family, similar financial security, length of marriage, or age of the prospective parents.

  9. Are the recipient/adopting families screened? In most donation programs the adopting couple is screened for infectious diseases and for general reproductive health. Some clinic programs will require psychological evaluations (their ability to parent). Adoption agencies will provide the most thorough evaluation of the adopting family, including a criminal background check. They will also provide the adopting family with training in how to be a successful as an adopting parent. The agency is also available to provide the adopting family with assistance in the future as the child matures.

  10. What kind of information will we need to provide about ourselves and our embryos from another clinic? You will need to contact your fertility clinic and have them send you and your donation/ adoption organization the embryology reports and freezing and thawing protocols for the embryos, as well as infectious disease screens for the donating parents (or the egg/ sperm donor). If the embryos were created through gamete donation, you will need to submit a copy of the contract you had with your donor, and the information given to you when you selected your donor.

  11. How willing are clinics to cooperate with embryo adoption? Most fertility clinics have the best interest of their patients in mind and will guide them through their best options. While some clinics refuse to work with embryos from outside clinics, other clinics will provide the service at their patients' request. Some clinics are open to using an outside service to place their patients' unused embryos but will not refer families to receive embryos.

  12. If we place our embryos for adoption, will we be able to know if a pregnancy occurred for the receiving family? Yes. Each program operates differently, but there are programs which allow you to know if a pregnancy occurred and even receive information about the child after birth if you desire.

  13. What counseling should be offered to the donor family as well as to the adoptive family? Counseling is an important component of the services that should be offered in an embryo adoption and, in fact, is specifically included in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's (ASRM's) guidelines for donating embryos. The type of counseling services made available and offered in an embryo adoption situation should be similar to the counseling services offered for traditional adoptions. For example, local area donating families should be provided with counseling services at no charge. Counseling for local adopting families should be included in their program fees. Referrals should be made for families outside of the geographical area serviced by the agency, clinic, or attorney.

Expenses and Legal Requirements

  1. Is embryo adoption expensive? Embryo adoption is a low-cost adoption alternative when compared to domestic and international adoption, repeated IVF cycles and the cost of donor eggs. The embryo donor does not receive payment for their embryos. This is one of the guidelines established by the ASRM for embryo donation.

    For the adopting family embryo donation expenses will range from $10,000 - $15,000 on average. Most of these expenses are to cover the fees associated with the safeguards of established adoption practices, medical procedures and legal contracts.

  2. Does it cost anything for the donating parents to place embryos for adoption? Expenses related to placing your embryos for adoption are usually covered by the recipients. The adopting family is not responsible for any expenses you incurred in the creation and storage of your embryos.

  3. What costs are involved with embryo adoption?

    Embryo adoption costs are primarily paid by the adopting family. The donating family should NOT expect to be reimbursed for any of the costs they have incurred for IVF or embryo storage.

    Agency Fee*
    *Additional travel expenses may be incurred for centralized programs.
    $2,500-$10,000 May or may not include legal fees, embryo shipping, matching services,
    counseling, additional medical screening
    Home Study/FamilyAssessment $1,000-$2,500 Costs vary by state
    Clinic Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) $2,500-$5,000 Costs vary by clinic
    TOTAL $6,000-$17,500 Generally less expensive than domestic or international adoption

  4. What are the current FDA requirements for blood tests and who pays for them?

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published regulations regarding human tissue donation that effects embryo donation and adoption. On May 25, 2004, the FDA published final rules addressing donor testing/ screening and good tissue practice. The FDA subsequently issued an interim final rule on May 25, 2005, which amended certain sections of those regulations. For additional information on the rule, see the FDA's web site Question and Answer section at:

    Previously, the FDA rules exempted sexually intimate partners engaged in reproductive treatment, from infectious disease testing prior to the creation of their embryos, which were intended for the couple's own use. The interim final rule expanded this exemption, which now permits couples who were not originally screened for infectious disease to donate their cryopreserved embryos to other couples. The regulations do suggest that attempts to test these donor couples should be made before the embryos are transferred to the recipient, but, when testing is not possible, the recipient should at least be advised of the potential communicable disease risk. Given that FDA regulations may change, you should be sure to understand what screening and testing requirements are in effect at the time of your donation.

    When issuing the interim final rule, the FDA stated; "We are now adding a new exemption from screening and testing in Sec. 1271.90(a)(4) for cryo preserved embryos that, while originally exempt from the donor eligibility requirement because the donors were sexually intimate partners, are later intended for directed or anonymous donation. When possible, appropriate measures should be taken to screen and test the semen and acolyte donors before transfer of the embryo to a recipient. This change reflects the fact that sexually intimate partners may decide to donate their cryo-preserved embryos long after their fertility treatments are completed. Because the embryos were intended for use in a sexually intimate relationship the donors would not have been required to be screened and tested for communicable disease agents at the time that oocytes and semen were recovered. The new provision recommends that appropriate measures be taken to screen and test the semen and oocyte donors before transfer of the embryo to the recipient, when possible.

    The current FDA mandated blood tests include:

    • HIV 1 & 2

    • HTLV I/II

    • Hepatitis B Surface Antigen

    • Hepatitis B Core Antibody (IgG/IgM)

    • Hepatitis C Antibody

    • RPR (Syphillis)

    • CMV IgG/IgM

    • Gonorrhea/Chlamydia Culture

    • Blood Typing

    • Rh Factor

  5. Who handles the coordination of the physical transportation of the embryos between clinics?

    If you are working with a private embryo adoption provider, the agency or attorney should coordinate travel for the embryos between the two clinics. Otherwise, the donor will need to discuss with the fertility clinic what paperwork is required to have the embryos released and transferred to another clinic. The donor should also find out what the clinic uses to transport the embryos; often, clinics use glass ampules or plastic straws that hold up to six embryos. They must be held in temperature-controlled containers in order to preserve them in a frozen state. The embryos can then be shipped overnight via air courier.

    In some cases, the recipient may be able to travel to the donors' clinic and have the embryos transferred without the shipping expenses. Recipients need to first find out how they can be become patients at the clinic and whether the transfer can be performed there.

  6. What if our clinic doesn't have a dry shipper? The agency or attorney with whom you are working should be able to coordinate the rental of an appropriate shipping container for you.

  7. What are the most significant legal issues associated with embryo adoption? The most significant legal issue associated with embryo donation and adoption relates to, first, the unsettled nature of embryo adoption law, and second, the contractual agreements used to legally bind donor and recipient couples.

    First, both the donor and recipient couples should acknowledge that the law of embryo donation and adoption is unsettled. There are no federal or state laws specifically governing the adoption of embryos although some states do have laws generally related to embryo donation and or assisted reproductive technology.

    Second, the embryo donation and adoption process involves adoption and agreement and relinquishment forms, which are legal contracts between the donor and recipient couples. These forms formalize the genetic parental relinquishment of their parental rights prior to the embryo being transferred to the receiving mother. Once transferred, the embryos belong to the adopting parents. Parties involved should also note that embryos have a special legal status that is yet to be clearly defined. While many courts are reluctant to classify embryos as property, they also do not characterize them as human beings. As a result, embryo adoption programs may differ in how they define embryos in their legal agreements. Some may refer to embryo donation as a transfer of property while others may incorporate traditional adoption language into their legal documents.

  8. Does the adopting family help with any of the fees incurred by the donating family in creating the embryos?

    Typically, adopting families do not reimburse the donor for any expenses that accrued prior to having been matched with a donating family. Adopting families do often reimburse donating families for any expenses incurred after they are matched. This includes storage and shipping fees, legal costs, and any fees associated with medical or psychological screening.

    These may be included in the overall program fee if done through an agency. Any sort of direct compensation for the embryos themselves is under the legal jurisdiction of each state, and interested parties should seek legal advice to determine the applicable laws in their states. In general, such payments are not recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) or the American Medical Association (AMA) on ethical grounds.

    Once donating and adopting families have selected one another, the embryos are shipped to the adopting family's clinic, where the adopting family then becomes responsible for storage costs incurred. Depending on how many embryos a donating family has, if an adopting family completes their family with embryos still remaining, there may be a chance that those remaining embryos would once again become the donating family's responsibility for storage fees and selection of another family.

  9. If our donated embryos are matched with an adopting family, will we have legal responsibility for any children born to them? Currently embryo donors are not legally responsible for offspring from their embryos. The legal agreement is an exchange of property between the two parties. Once completed, the adopting family bears all responsibility for any children born from the donated embryos, and the donating family relinquishes all parental rights. An experienced attorney or agency retaining legal expertise should be a part of any embryo adoption agreement.

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