Embyo Adoption and Donation
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Embyo Adoption and Donation
FAQs

Adopting Parents

Choosing Embryo Adoption - Is it right for me?

  1. Who adopts frozen human embryos?
    1. Couples and singles who are pre-disposed to adoption as a way of bringing a family's love to a child in need.
    2. Those who may have any of the following medical concerns:
      • You and/or your partner are infertile
      • You and/or your partner are concerned about or at a high risk of passing on genetic disorders to your potential offspring
      • You and/or your partner have had recurrent IVF failures
      • You and/or your partner are looking for an alternative to fertility treatments such as IVF or donor egg recipient IVF
      • You and/or your partner are unable to afford IVF or other methods of treatment
      • You are unable to carry to term and will, via this method, pursue using a surrogate with adopted embryos
    3. Those who do not wish to go through the expensive and emotionally exhausting process of adopting a newborn either in the USA or overseas
    4. Couples who are pursuing a second adoption

    Now couples can fulfill their desire for a family, give birth to the very child they adopted as a tiny, frozen embryo and ensure that a precious life is preserved at the same time.

    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 challenges!) 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.

  2. 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 challenges!) of pregnancy and childbirth. They also have peace of mind knowing their children received the appropriate prenatal care and were not exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

    There are certain considerations involved in embryo adoption that are not present in traditional adoption. For instance: Embryo adoption does not 'guarantee' a live birth. When more than one embryo is transferred, an adoptive couple might have twins or even triplets.

    Parents who adopt embryos are able to begin the bonding process with their child before they are born. They are giving embryos who have been frozen an opportunity for life. The embryos belong to the adopting parents before they are placed in the womb and the donating parents have relinquished all parental rights. The child born to the adopting couple is their legal child.

  3. 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.

    Most available newborns do not wait for parents, whereas parents frequently wait for available newborns. The parents who would pursue embryo adoption may have already researched their options surrounding the adoption of a infant. 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 donation and adoption. 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 have a preference for adopting children over a certain age or are interested in adopting sibling group. Others are more interested in working through the foster-adopt system. Embryo adoption is simply another choice available to families who are interested in adopting a child, albeit much earlier in the child's biological development!

  4. How is embryo adoption different from traditional adoption on the issue of 'risk'? Through this simple and successful adoption process you control the pregnancy and give birth to your adopted child. No costly "donated" human eggs, no expensive IVF, no traveling, no anxiety about a birthmother changing her mind, no international intrigue.

    Embryo adoption does not 'guarantee' pregnancy, but many adoption programs offer multiple matches to help assist with pregnancy success.

    On average, the pregnancy success rate for embryo adoption is 35%. This statistic varies by program and clinic, but is about the same as, if not a bit better than, for a fresh cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

    A common concern with embryo donation and adoption is about the quality of embryos. How important is embryo quality? There are a variety of methods used by medical professionals to grade frozen human embryos, projecting the likelihood of pregnancy success. Many healthy children have been born from embryos given a poor quality rating.

    Potential adoptive parents are often worried that children born from frozen and thawed embryos are at a higher risk of birth defects. In the domestic animal industry, large-scale freezing and transfer of embryos has not resulted in increased birth defects. Studies to date on those human offspring arising from thawed embryos have shown children born from cryo-preserved embryos do not experience birth defects at any higher rate than children born naturally.

  5. How is embryo adoption different from embryo donation? Embryo donation programs are generally managed by fertility clinics, which receive donated embryos to be given anonymously to whomever the clinic chooses. Designated [open] 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.

  6. Why would receiving/adopting parents choose embryo adoption instead of embryo donation?

    Adoption agencies have proven processes, legal contracts, counseling and educational programs in place to guide families through receiving embryos. An adoption agency is focused not only on assisting their client in building their family, but in providing them with appropriate social/emotional education to support them before and after the adoption is completed.

    An adoption agency with an embryo adoption program recognizes that the hoped for end result of embryo adoption is the birth of a child, a child who is not genetically related to you. Adoption agencies have the experience to enable you to successfully help this child understand their origins and their beloved place in your family.

    Another benefit of embryo adoption is 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.

  7. What steps should we take in evaluating embryo adoption as the right option for us?
    1. Learn for yourself about embryo adoption.
    2. Visit with people who have adopted embryos. There are several blogs and forums posted by embryo adopters. Watch testimonial videos on this site and on YouTube.
    3. Contact agencies and determine which one offers a program to meet your needs.
    4. Decide if embryo adoption is the right choice for you. Are you willing to accept the financial risk? Are you alright with having a child that may not resemble you? Will you accept the child even if it is born with disabilities?
    5. Talk with your OB/Gyn and a local reproductive endocrinologist.
    6. Decide which agency you would like to work with OR determine if you would rather pursue donation through a clinic program.
    7. Are you willing to complete a home study?
    8. What parameters do you want to set regarding the donor family and your potential match?

    This is not a comprehensive list, but should set you on the right path for determining if embryo adoption is the right choice for you!

  8. What is the embryo adoption success rate? Will we have a baby? A study completed in 2009 by the NEDC shows women who use their own embryos will have, on average, a 32% change of delivering to term, whereas women using adopted frozen embryos will have a 35% chance of delivering to term. [Fertility & Sterility, September 2007,Vol.88, pg S267]. Why the greater chance with frozen embryos? The frozen embryos have generally already produced children for the donor family, so they have a proven viability. Families using their own genetic material (eggs/semen) may be encountering difficulty based on their age(s) or other factors. Women who use donated embryos will not have recently undergone egg retrieval, will not have any residual effects of the drugs used to stimulate the ovaries, and as such their bodies may be more receptive to pregnancy. Additionally, babies from frozen embryos had higher birth weights than babies born from fresh embryos.

    Each adoption program should be able to provide you with statistics regarding their pregnancy success rates.

    Some programs will provide you with multiple matches to donor families in order to achieve pregnancy for no additional agency fee.

  9. Is this really adoption? 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/adoption process, embryo adoption agencies will apply the rigors of the adoption process because the end result is the birth of a child. 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. In some States, such as Kansas, Missouri and Georgia, the adoption of embryo children may be finalized in the courts.

  10. Why use donor embryos rather than an egg donor? The simple answer is that it is less expensive. 'Donated' eggs can cost upwards of $10,000. Human eggs are purchased, human embryos are donated.

    Another consideration is the fact that there are more than 600,000 human embryos in frozen storage in the United States today. Obviously all of these embryos are not available for adoption, yet each year more families are choosing to donate remaining embryos to other people either through their clinic or through an adoption agency.

    Choosing to purchase eggs from a donor to create more embryos may simply add to the number of embryos in frozen storage after you have completed building your family.

  11. Do you have to be infertile to consider embryo adoption? Absolutely not! There are couples who are simply interested in adding children to their family through adoption. Embryo adoption also allows the woman to experience pregnancy again if she desires.

    Embryo adoption is also a viable alternative for single women to achieve pregnancy using embryos that have already been created.

  12. How is surrogacy different from embryo adoption and donation? In surrogacy, an agreement is made for embryos to be transferred into a woman's uterus, and she carries the pregnancy for the benefit of the intended parents. The intended parents are specifically making embryos in vitro for placement into the surrogate using either their own genetics or purchases donor genetics. The surrogate may be impregnated using artificial insemination using the intended father's semen and her eggs. Surrogacy laws exist in each state and may differ by state.

    Compare that to embryo adoption and donation, where the adopting mother herself carries the child or children. The placing couple relinquishes their rights to any children born from the embryos prior to the transfer of those embryos into the adoptive mother's womb. The child that the adopting mother carries and gives birth to is the child that she and the adopting father will parent.

  13. What is an anonymous embryo donation? An anonymous donation occurs when donors and recipients do not know one other'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 a fertility clinic, but may be facilitated by 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. Medical information about the donated embryos is provided to the recipient.

  14. What costs are involved with embryo adoption? Embryo adoption costs are primarily paid by the adopting family. Generally the donating family does not receive payment for their donation nor should they expect the recipient family to cover any of the IVF expenses they incurred. Embryo storage costs prior to the match are also the responsibility of the donor family. The recipient family may be asked to pay for storage fees after the match is made.

    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/Family Assessment $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

  15. How do we get started? Wow! At first the concept of embryo adoption might be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that many couples have found embryo adoption to be the answer for adding children to their lives.

    Step One is to learn as much as you can and then determine if you prefer to work through an agency adoption program, a clinic donation program or attempt a direct match.

    Continue to look through our website to gain more information on embryo donation and adoption and to hear from other people who have been donors or recipients. The Personal Stories section includes people's experiences with donating or adopting embryos.

    Our Videos inform about frozen embryo adoption and portray the decision-making process of donating and adopting families.

    There is also a list of Articles on embryo adoption. If you decide to adopt embryos you can find a list of agencies with embryo adoption programs, a list of agencies who provide embryo adoption home study services and a list of clinics who have embryo donation programs.

    Questions? Contact us and we'll do out best to answer them!

Embryo Adoption

The Embryo Adoption Process

  1. Describe at a high level the process of embryo adoption.
    1. The first step in embryo adoption is to check with your OB/Gyn to see if you are able to carry a pregnancy to term.

    2. Evaluate the embryo adoption providers and select the agency/organization you would like to partner with for your adoption.

    3. Complete the agency's application.

    4. Select a clinic/physician for the medical procedures.

    5. Select a home study provider and complete a home study.

    6. Review matches presented by agency and agree to a match.

    7. Complete legal contracts.

    8. Embryos ship to chosen clinic.

    9. Schedule frozen embryo transfer(FET)with physician.

    10. Wait approximately nine months for a baby.

  2. What are the basic requirements for an adopting family? The adopting mother must be able to carry a child to term. Her doctor will be asked to provide a letter stating that there are no contraindications to pregnancy [no medical reason that will prevent her from carrying a pregnancy to term].

    The family will need to select a medical professional (usually in a fertility clinic) to assist with preparing the woman's womb for and providing the frozen embryo transfer.

    In their application with an adoption agency, the adopting family will have an opportunity to detail their desires regarding the donor family and their embryos. Legal contracts are generally provided by the adoption agency. If the family chooses to work directly with a clinic with a donation program or directly with a donor, they should be sure to include legal contracts releasing the embryos to their ownership prior to the frozen embryo transfer.

    The adopting family must also have completed an adoptive home study if working with an agency. This home study is the same study used to evaluate and educate adopting parents in traditional adoptions.

  3. What other stipulations may affect my ability to adopt embryos? Each adoption agency has various eligibility requirements for adopting parents. These include, but are not limited to:
    • An age limit for the adopting mother
    • Eligibility of couples who do not have an infertility diagnosis
    • Whether adoptive couples can use a surrogate mother to carry their adopted embryos
    • Out-of-state embryo adoptions
    • Out-of-country embryo adoptions
    • Eligibility of single women
    • Eligibility of homosexuals

  4. How do we find the right embryo adoption agency?

    A list of agencies and organizations who offer embryo adoption services is available on this website.

    When researching your alternatives here are some things to consider:

    1. Do you want to choose your own physician? Some programs require you to use the clinic which operates or is in partnership with the embryo adoption process.

    2. Some programs are centralized, one-stop shops which may be your best alternative. Everything is managed from one central location. Additional expenses for traveling to the centralized site should be included in your cost calculations.

    3. How long has the program been established?

    4. Do they have any special requirements?

    5. What do their legal contracts include? Are you able to make changes to them to meet your desires?

    6. What is the estimated time frame for being matched and giving birth?

    7. How comfortable are you with the people in the agency with whom you will be working?

    8. What exactly does each of the fees charges by the agency include? Matching? Legal contracts? Shipping coordination and costs? Additional medical testing? Home study? Medical costs? (This is not an all-inclusive list of questions to ask.)

  5. May an adopting family be registered with a traditional adoption program AND work with an agency offering embryo adoption? Each adoption agency and embryo adoption program is different. An adoptive family should check with both the adoption agency and embryo adoption program with which they are working to determine if this is allowed.

  6. How long does embryo adoption take? After you have submitted your application to an adoption agency you will need to complete a home study (unless you have completed one within the past 12 months). On average it will take about six months to match you with a donor family. The length of time will vary based on many factors including: Your age, the requirements you specified on your application for the donor family, and the 'quality' of the embryos you and your physician require.

  7. What questions should an adopting family ask when looking for a fertility clinic?
    • Is the clinic willing to accept embryos from another clinic for a frozen embryo transfer (FET)?

    • How much does it cost for a FET, including necessary prescriptions?

    • Does the clinic have any testing or screening requirements? Are there any other conditions involved in accepting and transferring the embryos?

    • What are the in-house statistics regarding thawing and transfer of embryos?

    • What paperwork is required by the clinic? How long will it take the clinic to process the paperwork?

    • What are the short-term and long-term storage fees at the clinic?

    This is not a comprehensive list of questions. Adopting families may have to educate a clinic about embryo adoption and/or donation with assistance from their chosen agency representative.

  8. Can we use our own doctor? Many embryo adoption agencies allow you to choose your own physician to perform the frozen embryo transfer (FET). The agency should be able to provide you with a list of clinics in your area that they have worked with successfully.

    Some clinics are reluctant to accept embryos that were created in another clinic. Statistics around the creation, freezing, thawing and birth rate using frozen embryos are important to clinics. They use these statistics to draw patients to their facilities. Looking at these statistics is one indicator for choosing a clinic for your own medical treatments.

    Other embryo adoption programs require you to use the physician(s) associated with the program.

  9. Why should an adoptive home assessment or home study be performed when embryo donation/ adoption is generally not recognized as a true adoption proceeding in the United States?

    The importance of the home study lies in its purpose to help couples have not only healthy children, but healthy families.

    An adoptive home study for the recipient couple ensures that the safeguards currently in place for traditional adoption also protect the child, the placing parents and the receiving parents in an embryo adoption situation.

    Despite the fact that the adoptive mother gives physical birth to a child from an embryo donation, that child is still an adopted child; he or she shares no genetic relation to the adoptive mother or father. When children are born into a family to whom they are not genetically related, they may have the same types of questions as those of children adopted through traditional means. The home study process is 20% screening and 80% education. It provides the adoptive family with an opportunity to learn about and anticipate these types of issues and questions. The home study also educates the parents of the best way to address and answer these questions with sensitivity to the needs of the child.

    The home study process benefits donating parents by assuring them that the adopting family:

    • was evaluated for any health issues that may affect their ability to care for and raise a child,
    • was screened for any criminal and child abuse issues,
    • was educated concerning the potential issues of parenting a non-genetically related child

  10. How can an adopting family find a local agency to conduct their home study? For most embryo adoption programs, a traditional domestic home study with some modifications is all that is required. It is best to find a private licensed adoption agency to work with because most state agencies or social services departments do not perform pre-placement home studies, and the ones who do most often will not provide a copy to an outside agency. A list of agencies in your area offering embryo adoption home studies can be found on this website.

  11. May the home study be used for a traditional adoption if an adopting family determines that at some point they no longer wish to adopt embryos? With the completed home study, an adopting family is in the position to look at traditional adoption if they determine that they are finished with the embryo adoption program. This determination is different for each family.

    A family should set limits at the onset of their embryo adoption process and move on to another program when those limits have been reached. Limits can be based on time, a determined number of transfers, money, or a combination of the above. If an adopting family makes several attempts at embryo adoption and is still not able to conceive, they may want to consider domestic or international adoption. An adopting family should discuss this option with their social worker while still in the home study process.

    There are time limits regarding the validity of a home study. Check with you agency to see if your most recent home study is still valid or requires updating.

  12. How do donating and adopting families find each other? Usually donating families and recipient/adopting families are matched through a clinic or agency. Sometimes donating families self-direct their donation to a couple they have chosen independent of an agency or clinic.

    While independently arranging an embryo donation match may appear to be less expensive, the parties will be responsible for arranging for legal services, clinic communications, donor/recipient screening, embryo transportation etc. All of these services must be secured independently and coordinated by either the donor or adopter.

  13. 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. 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. Some fertility clinics will facilitate the matching process, or matches sometimes come about through word of mouth or by searching the Internet. 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.

  14. How much do our families have to know about each other - if anything? 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.

    Open adoption does not mean co-parenting. The adopting couple is the child's parents.

  15. What type of information will we receive about the donating parents and their embryos? You will receive a medical health history, a family profile including information about the parents of the embryos and possibly pictures. Your doctor will receive the embryology reports, freezing and thawing protocols and all infectious disease screening results. If the embryos were created with an egg and/ or sperm donor, you will receive as much information as possible on the donor(s).

  16. What happens after a match is made?

    A home study will have been completed before a match is made. The adopting family will, with assistance from the agency representative, have determined if their clinic of choice will accept embryos from another clinic and if that clinic is 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.

    The medical procedure, frozen embryo transfer, will be coordinated with the adopting couple's physician. The number of embryos to be thawed and transferred should be mutually agreed upon.

  17. What is the risk that the donating parents might change their minds? The legal agreements signed by both the donating and adopting parties mitigate the risk of the donor parents changing their minds regarding their donation.

    The donating family contractually transfers their ownership and parental rights by signing a relinquishment prior to the embryos being shipped to the adopting family's clinic. The contract agreement and relinquishment forms are legally binding between the two families. Once the embryos have been transferred, the donating parents have no legal claim to any resulting children, nor any responsibility for them.

  18. 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 cryo-preserved embryos, the chance of accidentally meeting and mating with a sibling is extremely unlikely.

    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.

  19. What if an adoptive family completes their family and still has embryos remaining?

    This is a matter which should be addressed in the legal contracts signed by both parties. The donor may not want to have the embryos returned to them after the adopter has completed their family building. In this case, the adopter determines the disposition of the embryos based on what was legally agreed to in their contract.

    Some contracts will specify a period of time in which the embryos must be thawed and transferred by the adopter. If more time is needed, another relinquishment will be requested from the donor.

    If the adopting parents have remaining embryos that they will not be transferring at a later time, a best practice is to have the embryos returned to the original donating family. The original family may then determine if the embryos may be adopted by another family. This gives the original donor control over who gives birth to genetic siblings of their children.

Embryo Adoption

Expenses Associated with Embryo Adoption

  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. The most exciting aspect of embryo adoption is that you have the opportunity to give birth to your adopted child!

    In the United States the adoption of children in the foster care system is generally the least expensive form of adoption but it is difficult to adopt infants in this program.

  2. What costs are involved with embryo adoption?

    Embryo adoption costs are primarily paid by the adopting family. Generally the donating family does not receive payment for their donation nor should they expect the recipient family to cover any of the IVF expenses they incurred. Embryo storage costs prior to the match are also the responsibility of the donor family. The recipient family may be asked to pay for storage fees after the match is made.

    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

  3. What does an embryo adoption program fee typically cover? An embryo adoption program's fees typically cover the completion of a home study for families who need one, matching of the adopting family with a donating family, maintenance of files, facilitation of communication between donating and adopting families, preparation of contracts, relinquishments and other legal paperwork, counseling for both sides, coordination of communication between clinics and doctors to ensure that requirements are met for the transfer of the embryos between states, and management and direction of shipping of the embryos. Medical and incidental expenses are generally not included.

  4. Do agency program fees include the medical expenses? This depends on the program you are working with. If medical expenses are included in the fee, generally you will need to work with a specified fertility clinic. If medical expenses are not included, adopting parents are able to choose their fertility clinic and doctor, and need to pay the clinic to thaw and transfer the embryos as well as any other associated medical costs connected with the transfer. When choosing a fertility clinic, be sure to compare like services included in various quotes and the costs of subsequent transfers and embryo storage.

  5. What additional out-of-pocket expenses can an adopting family expect? Costs which may not be covered by an embryo adoption program include the rental of a dry shipper for embryo's travel and additional lab tests for a donating family or storage fees incurred by the donor family after the match is completed.

  6. 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.

Embryo Adoption

Legal Requirements for Embryo Adoption

  1. What are the most significant legal issues associated with embryo adoption?

    The most significant legal issue associated with embryo donation and adoption relates to, 1.) the unsettled nature of embryo adoption law, and 2.) 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.

  2. What laws govern embryo adoption? In the United States embryos are considered property, not people and therefore the 'owners' [the donor] of the embryos transfer the ownership to the recipient family via contract law.

    In Georgia legislation was passed in May 2009 granting embryo adopting parents the right to finalize their adoption in the court.

    In Louisiana embryos are considered 'juridical persons' which means: Entity (such as a firm) other than a natural person (human being) created by law and recognized as a legal entity having distinct identity, legal personality, and duties and rights. Also called artificial person, juridical entity, juristic person, or legal person.

  3. Is it legal for the donor to request reimbursement for their IVF expenses as part of their donation?

    The term 'donation' implies that the embryos are being given, without charge, to the recipient. Since the inception of embryo adoption through adoption agencies, donors have not received compensation for their embryo donation.

    When a couple determines to pursue IVF treatments, they are making that choice as a direct benefit to themselves. Most often, a couple with remaining embryos has them because excess embryos were created as a part of their IVF treatment. They have now completed their family building and are choosing a disposition for their remaining embryos.

    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.

  4. Legally, what is the relationship between the adoptive parents and any child born following embryo adoption? 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).

Embryo Adoption

The Medical Side of Embryo Adoption

  1. What is involved in Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)? The frozen embryo transfer (FET) procedure is the same whether the patient is using her own or donated embryos. The process can be done during an un-medicated/natural cycle, but medicated cycles are more common as they provide more control in the timing of the transfer. Sometimes, a mock cycle is done to test the effects of the medicine on the body.

    If this is successful, the cycle is done again and the embryos are transferred. Potential medications used in the cycle include: antibiotics, oral contraceptives, prenatal vitamins/calcium supplements, pituitary suppressors, baby aspirin, estrogen supplements, and progesterone.

    Understanding the FET process may be an important part of your selection of a fertility clinic.

  2. What are the protocols for a frozen embryo transfer?

    Hormone preparation for FET
    Using hormones to prepare the uterus is the most common way in which a frozen embryo transfer is performed. The first step is to suppress the pituitary gland. This is necessary to reduce the chances of ovulation occurring unexpectedly. Typically, Lupron is used for pituitary suppression. For most women, this will require approximately two weeks of daily Lupron injections.

    The second step in a frozen embryo transfer cycle is to use hormones to duplicate the changes that normally occur in the uterus during a regular menstrual cycle. This requires the use of two hormone medications: estrogen and progesterone.

    Estrogen preparation for FET
    During a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen is produced by the developing follicle. This estrogen acts on the uterus to thicken and mature the uterine lining. Estrogen is given in a FET cycle for the same reason. There are many different ways that estrogen can be given in a frozen embryo transfer cycle:

    • Estrogen pills — Estrace, Premarin
    • Estrogen patches — Estraderm, Climera
    • Estrogen injections — Delestrogen (estradiol valerate), Depogen (estradiol cypionate)
    • Vaginal estrogen — Vagifem, Femring

    There is no data that any one method works better than another and a method is usually chosen based on physician preference.

    During the time when estrogen is given, the woman will come to the office periodically to be monitored. A transvaginal ultrasound is performed to determine the thickness of the uterine lining and a blood test is performed to look at the level of estrogen in the blood. On occasion, if the lining is not thickening as it should, the dose or type of estrogen must be increased or prolonged. The length of time the estrogen can be given is very flexible. During this phase, for example, the duration of estrogen may be prolonged to delay the day of embryo transfer to accommodate the patient's schedule.

    The monitoring in a thaw cycle is very flexible. Unlike a fresh IVF cycle during which the required days for monitoring are determined by the growth of the follicles in the ovary, in an FET cycle, the days can be adjusted at any time. Thus, a frozen embryo transfer cycle is much less stressful on the patient.

    Progesterone in an FET cycle
    Once the uterine lining has been thickened sufficiently, progesterone is added. Once the progesterone is added, the Lupron may be stopped. Progesterone matures the uterine lining and makes it receptive to an embryo to implant. Once the progesterone is begun, there is a certain window of implantationduring which the embryo must be transferred. The stage of the embryo must match the stage of development of the uterus. Therefore, the only factor that locks the patient into performing the transfer on a certain day is starting the progesterone. Once the progesterone is begun, if the embryo transfer is not performed on a certain day, the cycle must be cancelled and a new preparation with hormones must be begun after allowing a period to occur.

    There are many different types of progesterone that can be used in a frozen embryo transfer cycle. Some of the more common methods include:

    • Progesterone pills — Prometrium
    • Progesterone injections
    • Progesterone vaginal suppositories
    • Progesterone vaginal gels — Crinone, Procheive

    There is considerable uncertainty in the medical literature concerning which type of progesterone is the best for FET cycles. Again, the choice of progesterone for an FET cycle is up to the discretion of the physician. A few things, however, most experts would agree on. Progesterone given by mouth is unreliable due to variable absorption and subsequent metabolism in the liver.

    Once the uterine lining is adequately thickened with estrogen, the progesterone is usually started on a particular day to allow for scheduling of the embryo thaw and embryo transfer.

  3. What is the timeline for an FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer)? One of the benefits of having a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) an embryo adoption is that no egg retrieval is required because the embryos are already in existence. Couples participating in FETs can skip right to preparing her body for pregnancy by building up the lining of her uterus. As a result of having the embryo ready, once her lining is optimal, the embryo (or embryos) can be transferred. This shortens the overall timeline considerably for a couple undergoing a FET over a fresh embryo cycle.

  4. Will the drug regimen be the same for embryo adoption with fresh embryo transfers? No, it will not be the same. There are fewer drugs needed because the ovaries need no additional stimulation to produce several eggs at ovulation. There will still be estrogen treatment to begin to prep the uterine lining for around two weeks. Following that, the patient will get both estrogen and progesterone to build up the uterine lining for implantation.

  5. Can a natural cycle be used for the frozen embryo transfer?

    FET during a natural cycle
    If a woman has regular, ovulatory menstrual cycles, a frozen embryo transfer can be performed without the use of hormone preparation. Several studies have shown that the pregnancy rates in natural FET cycles are equivalent to that of hormone prepared cycles. In practice however, these cycles are much more difficult logistically to perform.

    In the section above, it was stated that there is a precise window of implantation for transferring frozen embryos. This must be maintained in a natural FET cycle as well. This requires precise determination of the time of ovulation. This can be done by using a home ovulation predictor kit. However, as anyone who has ever used these kits knows, it is sometimes difficult to read them accurately. Although the instructions accompanying the ovulation kits usually recommended that women test the urine once each morning, for FET cycles it is recommended that testing is done in the morning and evening. It is also possible to monitor natural cycles using blood tests and ultrasounds.

    Unfortunately, during a natural cycle, the day of ovulation is not as controlled.

  6. What is the success rate for thawing embryos? The success rate for thawing frozen embryos will vary by clinic - from 50 - 75%. Each clinic reports on its own statistics to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). It is advisable to discuss these statistics (found at CDC Fertility Clinic Statistics) with any clinic being considered for the frozen embryo transfer (FET) process.

    One family adopted embryos from two different families. One embryo was adopted from one family, and five embryos were adopted from a second family. The time came to transport the embryos to the adopting family's clinic via Fed Ex. The adopting mother was prepped for her embryo transfer and the physician doing the frozen embryo transfer asked for the five embryos to be sent to the clinic. The one embryo from the first family remained frozen at the original IVF clinic.

    The physician felt the statistics were better with five, so he wanted the five for the transfer. Unfortunately, when the five embryos were thawed, none survived. Because the doctor had a patient prepped for transfer with no embryos, he called to have the one embryo sent over. Fed Ex priority overnight delivered the one embryo the next day, and the transfer occurred. Against statistical evidence, two weeks later the pregnancy test was positive! Nine months later a beautiful baby was born from that one embryo. The truth is it only takes one embryo for a successful pregnancy.

    In another instance a doctor reprimanded his patient for adopting a set of embryos. The doctor thought the embryos were very poor quality and he could not believe she had adopted these embryos on her own free will. The doctor did not want to proceed with the transfer. The adopting parents proceeded against his advice. Nine months later, the mother gave birth to their son.

  7. What is the success rate of frozen embryo transfers (FETs)? The success rate for embryos transferred during FETs is the same to slightly better than those implanted from fresh cycles of IVF. 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 will not have to be 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.

  8. How many embryos should an adopting family transfer per cycle? Adopting families should limit the number of embryos transferred to the number that they are willing to carry to term in the event that all the embryos implant. Some embryo adoption programs specifically require their adopting families to agree to transfer all thawed and viable embryos and to not selectively reduce the number of embryos that have begun developing. Due to the high-risk nature of a multiple pregnancy, most doctors recommend limiting the number of embryos transferred to no more than three embryos at a time. This is something adopting families should discuss with their doctor prior to their scheduled embryo transfer. The ASRM also provides members with transfer guidelines based on the woman's age.

  9. How long can embryos be used after they are frozen? Frozen embryos do not have a determined 'shelf-life'. 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.

  10. What is the likelihood of having twins or triplets with frozen embryo transfer? Multiple births are less common with frozen embryo cycles than with fresh embryo transfers. But this in no way guarantees that an adopting family will not have multiples. Adopting families should consult the Society for Reproductive Technology, ASRM, the Center for Disease Control, and their fertility clinic for statistics regarding multiples birth rates and the number of embryos to be transferred in any given frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle.

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also maintains data submitted by U.S. clinics regarding the number of embryo transfers, success rates and incidents of multiple births. You may see this data displayed for each unique clinic on the CDC web site.

  11. Are there any risks to pregnancy inherent in using donated embryos for the Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)? A pregnancy using donated embryos does not involve any special or increased factors of risk. It is important to consider the age and any medical conditions of the donating parents and to discuss this and all other pertinent details with the obstetrician. A recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility actually found that the pregnancy success rate for women adopting embryos is equal to or greater than the success rate for women using their own embryos in IVF treatments. Women who use their own embryos will have a 32% chance of delivering to term, whereas women using adopted frozen embryos will have a 35% chance of delivering to term.

  12. Can we choose our own fertility clinic for the frozen embryo transfer (FET)? Several embryo adoption programs will allow you to choose the fertility clinic you wish to work with for your medical procedures. Others will require that you use a particular clinic. Most clinics with donor programs will require you to use their clinic. Understand your priorities and then select the right program for you.

  13. What questions should an adopting family ask when looking for a fertility clinic?
    • Is the clinic willing to accept embryos from another clinic for a frozen embryo transfer (FET)?

    • How much does it cost for a FET, including necessary prescriptions?

    • Does the clinic have any testing or screening requirements? Are there any other conditions involved in accepting and transferring the embryos?

    • What are the in-house statistics regarding thawing and transfer of embryos?

    • What paperwork is required by the clinic? How long will it take the clinic to process the paperwork?

    • What are the short-term and long-term storage fees at the clinic?

    • Check the Center for Disease Control statistics on the clinic to see not only their pregnancy rate, but also their live birth rate, and multiple birth rate. Triplet and more pregnancies are another form of IVF mistake.

    • Ask the clinic about their labeling protocol for embryos. (They should use at least two, and preferably more, unique identifiers such as bar-coding, color-coding, name, number, etc.)

    • Ask the clinic what safeguards are used to make sure that the correct embryos are used for each procedure. (For example, more than one person doing the identification of both the embryo and the patient)

    • Check to see if there have been any complaints or disciplinary actions against your doctor. You have a couple of options: a.)Search medical board and the state name in your favorite search engine to find the Medical Board for your state. b.)Use a commercial service to provide a report on your doctor.

    • Ask the clinic if a nurse is available to work with you individually if needed to make certain you understand how to administer the medication. Not all mistakes in infertility treatment are by the clinic itself. Infertility medications can be confusing to administer.

    • Does the clinic have a specific policy of disclosing all mistakes or errors to a patient?

    • During your procedure, ask questions. 'Have you double checked to make sure these are my embryos?' 'May I see the storage vial for the embryos before the FET?'

    This is not a comprehensive list of questions. Adopting families may have to educate a clinic about embryo adoption and/or donation with assistance from their chosen agency representative.

  14. How concerned do we need to be about the 'quality' of the donor embryos? Our clinic seems to have some very strict requirements.

    The 'quality' of human embryos is determined by a variety of factors. The reality is that healthy children have been born from very 'low quality' embryos and children with birth defects have been born from 'very high quality' embryos.

    Prenatal genetic testing (PGD) removes cells from embryos prior to transfer into the womb to test for disease and other chromosomal deficiencies. Some people go as far as testing to determine the sex of the embryo because of their preferences.

    Fertility clinics do have to follow FDA rules and regulations regarding human reproductive tissue.

    Keep in mind that the embryos that are donated have already produced children for the donor family. They are donating them because they want to give their remaining embryos a chance at life and they want to help another couple achieve pregnancy and children.

    There have been children born from embryos that have been frozen more than twelve years. There have been children born from embryos that were deemed to have defects 'incompatible' with life. There have been children born from embryos that were frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed again!

    What is believed to be flawed by some may become a life-filled baby girl or boy.

  15. What if pregnancy is not achieved after using all of a donating family's embryos? If a match between adopting and placing families does not result in a pregnancy after thawing and/or transferring all of their embryos, another match can usually be facilitated by your agency with another donating family.

    Your original fee may cover the cost of new match or there may be additional fees assessed. This may include a nominal fee to cover counseling for the new donor couple, new paperwork and embryo transportation.

    We strongly recommend that you clearly understand what is and is not included in the program you are considering, as each embryo adoption program is different.

  16. Have there been any reported psychological problems found in children born through embryo donation?

    Issues and concerns have yet to be identified and there are no long-term studies available. Similar psychological issues associated with adopting domestically or internationally may arise with embryo adopted children.

    Working with an experienced adoption agency will help you understand the unique needs of an adopted child and help equip you to meet those needs. Additionally, a reputable agency will be available to you for future counseling as your children mature.

  17. 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.

  18. What are the current FDA requirements for blood tests?

    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: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/TissueSafety/ucm095440.htm

    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 cryopreserved 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

  19. A local clinic has agreed to receive frozen storage embryos from another clinic, however, they insist that the donating family follow FDA regulations regarding blood work. What does this mean?

    Current ASRM/FDA recommended blood tests include: HIV I & II, HTLV I & II, Hepatitis B surface antigen, Hepatitis B Core Antibody (IgG/IgM), Hepatitis C Antibody, RPR (Syphilis), CMV IgG/IgM, Gonorrhea/Chlamydia culture, Blood Typing, and Rh factor.

    The FDA requires that parents who create embryos on or after May 25, 2005 must have their blood screened twice for infectious diseases. The first screen is done at the time of collection/creation and the second screen must be done at least six months later. This is to ensure that no infectious diseases were contracted during the month or two preceding the collection, which would not have shown up on the first screen.

    Parents who created embryos before May 25, 2005 are recommended to have this second screening done, but there is no FDA requirement. However, most clinics who agree to accept embryos from other clinics will require a second screening, even if they embryos were created far before May 25, 2005. If an egg or sperm donor was used in the creation of the embryos before May 25, 2005, the original screening results are sufficient. It is not necessary to locate him or her for additional blood testing.

    If the embryos were created prior to May 25, 2005, and the donating parents are not able or willing to complete additional blood testing, a waiver can be signed by the adoptive parents stating that they are aware of the lack of testing and choose to accept any risks.

    Fees for the screens are covered by the adopting parents, although donating parents may have to pay initially and then be reimbursed.

    Some clinics may also require some tests or screens for the recipients. This is contingent on what tests were already performed, the standard practices of the doctor and clinic, and any specific risk factors associated with the patient, such as age. Adopting parents should consult with their doctor to find out what testing needs to be done.

    In addition, adopting parents may be required to meet with a psychologist to discuss their feelings towards embryo donation/adoption and whether they are fully aware of what it will entail to enter such an agreement. Clinics that do not require counseling may require some type of consultation to ensure that both parents have been informed and give their consent.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

Embryo Adoption

Understanding Emotions and Embryo Adoption

  1. What emotional issues should those considering embryo adoption be aware of? There are emotional impacts on both the individual and the couple; personal, financial, sexual, and spiritual concerns. Keeping in mind that the hoped-for end result is the birth of a child, coming to conclusions regarding how you will educate that child about their origins is also important. Finding a counselor who has in-depth experience with the psychological impacts of infertility is a good first step. Many couples who choose embryo adoption have already been faced with infertility. Even for those families who choose embryo adoption without having experienced infertility. Choosing to parent through embryo donation involves a leap of faith that you will be able to handle and assimilate with grace the multiple uncertainties that you might face. I recommend that you, as couples, learn to communicate very well about complex issues, surround yourself with others who are learning about similar issues, and find professional support that can encourage and support you in positive and wise ways. Overall, before embarking on embryo donation I suggest that you grieve the many losses involved in your infertility and that you share with and forgive each other for the misunderstandings you experienced during the treatment period. I also recommend that you recognize that becoming a parent in any way involves a leap of faith, because regardless of where your children come from or how they were conceived, parenting is both the most rewarding and the most challenging life experience you will ever have. There are no easy paths for parents and children, and if natural conception guaranteed emotional satisfaction and success, just think of all the arrogant parents there would be in the world!

Embryo Adoption

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 EmbryoAdoption.org 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.

Embryo Adoption

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.

Embryo Adoption

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.

Embryo Adoption

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: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/TissueSafety/ucm095440.htm

    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.

Embryo Adoption

Adoption Agencies

General Information on Embryo Adoption

  1. Why does our agency need to know about embryo donation and adoption? Embryo adoption was first introduced in 1997 by Nightlight Christian Adoptions when they established the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. Since that time more agencies have chosen to establish embryo adoption programs.

    Your clients view your agency as a trusted source of information regarding their adoption options. Embryo adoption may be the right adoption choice for your client. Embryo adoption may help to fulfill many of the lingering dreams of pregnancy and giving birth which your clients may have experienced during a difficult infertility journey.

    Its easy to educate yourself, your staff and your clients about embryo adoption. There are many tools available on this website: videos, webinars, Power Point presentations, marketing collateral and a comprehensive set of FAQs.

    The opportunity to learn is free, and as a professional you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your agency is providing clients with information regarding all options available to them.

    If your client chooses embryo adoption, there are several programs they can work with and your agency can still complete the clients' adoption home study.

  2. How many embryo adoption programs exist? Currently the Awareness Center has a list of eight active embryo adoption agencies around the country.

    The Center has been working with agencies and clinics around the United States over the past two years, encouraging the establishment of new programs. Since that time two new programs have formed and many more are in the process of being established.

  3. How many embryo donations/ adoptions occur nationwide each year? There are no national statistics regarding the number of embryo donations/adoptions that occur each year. Each program can vary widely with some programs performing as few as 1 adoption or donation per year, while others may complete as many as 50 placements a year.

    There are over 500,000 embryos in frozen storage. The majority of those are being held for future use by the folks who created them. However, a significant number of them are also being donated each year to other couples. The work of the Awareness Center is to educate both potential donors and potential adopters about the success of embryo donation and adoption and the great satisfaction and joy it can bring to both families.

  4. When should we educate our clients about embryo adoption? We suggest that you begin to educate your potential clients about embryo adoption as an adoption option at the same time you are educating them about domestic, international or foster adoption. Many agencies host informational meetings on a regular basis. Some initially meet with clients one-on-one. The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has created videos, webinars, marketing brochures and Power Point presentations to help you in this education process.

  5. What average time commitment should an agency or attorney expect to invest with each placement? A typical time investment can range from 100 to 200 hours per family choosing to adopt or place embryos in adoption or donation program. The time spent can be broken down into the following types of activities:

    • processing the application

    • counseling and matching the families

    • preparing the documents for transfer of legal ownership

    • coordinating the medical documentations

    • facilitating shipment of the embryo

    This list is by no means exhaustive and the time required to place embryos may vary greatly depending on the needs and desires of each individual family.

  6. Are there any tax implications of embryo donation and adoption? There is some support for the application of the adoption tax credit to embryo adoption. Some families have applied for the tax credit with regard to the fees paid to their agency for the adoptive home assessment, educational component, and other adoption agency or attorney expenses directly relating to the adoption of the embryos. These may be families who have participated in an embryo adoption program and who have given birth to a child as a result.

    This information is not intended to be a complete or comprehensive statement of the law in this area. It should therefore, in no way, shape, or manner, be construed or interpreted as providing legal advice. You are advised to conduct your own independent research as to the applicability of the adoption tax credit to embryo adoption or to seek the advice of a tax professional, Certified Public Accountant, or financial adviser.

  7. What ways can we be involved in embryo adoption without starting a program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has created a matrix defining four levels of involvement in embryo donation and adoption for agencies. Each of these levels has a corresponding webinar which can be found on the Webinar Archive page of this website.

    The easiest way agencies can participate is through self-education followed by client education. Potential clients see your agency as a trusted source of information regarding all things adoption. Adding embryo adoption to your list of adoption options simply increases your value as a reliable information provider.

    If you have a client who chooses to pursue an embryo adoption through another agency, your agency may still perform the home study for the family. Some embryo adoption agencies will partner with non-embryo adoption agencies. By providing embryo adoption home studies to clients, you are preparing, training and educating families for their life ahead as a parent of a child who has joined their family in very unique, but special circumstances. A list of existing embryo adoption agencies is available to help you explore options for partnerships.

Embryo Adoption

Processes Associated with Embryo Adoption

  1. How much do agencies charge for an embryo adoption?

    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

  2. How many months does it take to complete an embryo adoption? After clients have submitted their application to an embryo adoption agency they will need to complete a home study (unless they have completed one within the previous 12 months). After the home study is completed it will take an average of six months to match an adoptive family with a donor family. The length of time will vary based on many factors including: the clients age, the requirements they specify on their application for a donor family and the 'quality' of the embryos the family requires. After the families are matched the next step is the frozen embryo transfer at the clinic. If one of the transferred embryos implants in the womb and a healthy pregnancy is established, a baby will be born nine months later!

  3. What roles may an agency or attorney fulfill in the embryo adoption/donation process?
    • Phase One:The process starts with an initial inquiry from a family either desiring to place their embryos for adoption or to adopt embryos.

    Agency/ Attorney Roles: Staff should be in place who can answer the resulting questions and prepare and mail program information packets and applications. When applications are received, they should be reviewed and approved by an assigned adoption social worker who reads the home assessment (in the case of an adoptive family), interviews the client to discuss matching criteria and address and resolve any issues concerning the placement or adoption of the embryos prior to the family being approved for participation in the program.

    • Phase Two: Both the donating and adopting families establish their criteria for a successful match which will lead to an embryo placement and adoption. A matching process initiates.

    Agency/ Attorney Roles: Once a successful match has been made, each set of parents drafts and signs contracts; embryos are shipped to the adopting family's clinic, and the adopting family is then able to schedule their frozen embryo transfer (FET). Depending on the form and frequency of any on-going contact between the families, an agency or attorney may need to continue to act as intermediary for such contact. There is also the possibility that additional matches and contracts will need to be performed if an adopting family does not use all of the donating family's embryos.

  4. What legal documents are used to transfer the embryos from the donating parents to the adoptive parents? Necessary legal documents include:

    • A document relinquishing the genetic parents' rights and responsibilities to the embryos and any child or children born from those embryos

    • A document allowing the recipients to assume all parental rights and responsibilities for the embryos and any child or children born from them.

  5. Why should an adoptive home assessment or homestudy be performed when embryo donation/adoption is generally not recognized as a true adoption proceeding in the United States? The importance of the home study lies in its purpose to help couples have not only healthy children, but healthy families.

    An adoptive home study for the recipient couple ensures that the safeguards currently in place for traditional adoption also protect the child, the placing parents and the receiving parents in an embryo adoption situation.

    Despite the fact that the adoptive mother gives physical birth to a child from an embryo donation, that child is still an adopted child; he or she shares no genetic relation to the adoptive mother or father. When children are born into a family to whom they are not genetically related, they will have the same types of questions as those of children adopted through traditional means. The home study process is 20% screening and 80% education. It provides the adoptive family with an opportunity, to learn about and anticipate these types of issues and questions. The home study also educates the parents in the best way to address and answer these questions with sensitivity to the needs of the child.

    Since the home study process provides the donating parents with assurance about their embryos' prospective parents, they are also benefited. This assurance includes:

    • the adopting family has been evaluated for any health issues that may affect their ability to care for and raise a child,

    • has been screened for any criminal and child abuse issues,

    • has been educated concerning the potential issues of parenting a non-genetically related child

  6. Why is it important to provide counseling to adopters? There are emotional impacts on both the individual and the couple; personal, financial, sexual, and spiritual concerns that adopters commonly feel with the process of Embryo Adoption. Keeping in mind that the hoped-for end result of the adoption is the birth of a child, coming to conclusions regarding how your clients will educate that child about their origins is also important. Providing in-depth counseling focusing on the psychological impacts of infertility is a good first step. Many adoptive couples who choose embryo adoption have already been faced with infertility. Even for families who havent experienced infertility, choosing to parent through embryo donation involves a leap of faith that they will be able to handle and assimilate with grace the multiple uncertainties they might encounter.

  7. At what point is an embryo adoption considered to be finalized? Although there is little or no precedence on this issue, the language of the written agreement effecting the transfer of ownership in the embryos may specify that the adoption is deemed to have occurred at the point of thawing and implantation of the embryos into the adoptive mother's womb.

Embryo Adoption

Embryo Adoption Home Studies

  1. Should we encourage open or closed embryo adoption? There are several advantages to encouraging open adoptions between donor and adoptive families. Among them is the ready exchange of information, including information on medical conditions.

    Open adoptions can also ease the process of explaining a childs genetic history to them. Adult adoptees and adults conceived from donor insemination have explained why honesty is important for an understanding of who they are, where they came from and for knowledge of their own medical history. Children given life through embryo adoption have the same right-to-know as any other adoptee so they can understand biological roots and have a medical history. For these reasons and many other sociological and psychological reasons, we strongly suggest encouraging open embryo adoptions.

  2. What changes does our agency need to make to our current home study process to support embryo adoption? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center offers a webinar to help agencies understand how to modify their existing domestic adoption home study process to support embryo adoption. This webinar, Home Study for the Embryo Adoption: A Detailed Exploration, is available in the Webinar Archive section of this website.

  3. How is an embryo adoption home study different than a traditional home study? Embryo Adoption home studies are similar to traditional domestic home studies with some modifications. The main purpose of an embryo adoption home study, following in the steps of a domestic home study, is to provide education and training for adopting families. Potential topics to address during the home study process include:
    • Understanding of infertility issues

    • Understanding of donor egg and/or sperm issues

    • Exploration of reasons for choosing embryo adoption

    • Discussion of grief and loss issues through exploring the couples infertility journey
    • Discussion of the loss of a mutually genetic child

    • Discussion of the joys (and challenges!) of being able to experience pregnancy and gestational bonding

    • Addressing the couples control of pre-natal environment

    • Specifying preferences regarding donor

    • Discussion of the potential for genetic siblings and how the adopting couple will address this unique dynamic with their adopted child

    • Addressing the couples feelings about giving birth to an adopted child

    • Discussion of how the couple may have remaining embryos for future family building

    • Addressing the fact that no finalization process is required by law* but is recommended as best practice

    • Covering the potential for a multiple birth pregnancy

    • Preparing the clients for the possibility that donated embryos may not survive thawing, the embryo transfer may not result in pregnancy or that a pregnancy may not be carried to term

    • Addressing the fact that a couple may complete family building and have remaining embryos

    • Guiding adopting couple in determining their preferences for donor/embryos based on genetics and family background

    • Working through the application process with the client and assisting them in presenting themselves with integrity, remembering that the donor family has also experienced infertility

    • Exploration of contact with the donor family, including reasons for establishing and maintaining contact, exploring resistance, level and type of contact and building positive relationships with the donor family

    • Addressing the couples plans for sharing about the adoption with the adopted child and their extended family

Embryo Adoption

Starting an Embryo Adoption Program

  1. What are some things we should consider before starting a new embryo adoption program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center has identified four levels of involvement that agencies can consider regarding embryo adoption.

    Should your agency have an interest in starting a new program here are some items to consider:

    1. Do you have current personnel to manage a new program or will you need to add staff?

    2. You may want to work with an experienced provider first, perhaps providing the home study for the adoption initially, and learning more through your participation with the experienced provider.

    3. You may want to hire a expert who can provide insight and guidance in the establishment of a program.

    4. What geography would you like to cover?

    5. What types of marketing will be required to build an in-house program?

    6. Where/how will you acquire donated embryos?

    7. Partnering with an attorney who either has experience or is willing to learn about the legal aspects in your state(s).

  2. What does our agency need to do to start an embryo adoption program? The Embryo Adoption Awareness Center offers a webinar to help agencies understand the steps involved with establishing an embryo adoption program within your agency. This webinar, Establishing an Embryo Adoption Program, is available in the Webinar Archive section of this website.

    Rather than beginning your embryo adoption program on a national scale, the Awareness Center recommends beginning at a geographically local level. Establishing a relationship with a local fertility clinic(s) is a good method for finding a source for potential embryo donors and for potential adoption clients.

    Consultants with embryo adoption experience are available to assist your agency in the process of developing your own program. Please call the Awareness Center for more information.

  3. If we wanted to start a program, what is the typical fee schedule? As in any adoption program, the fees charged will vary depending on the type of organization offering the service, the geographical area being serviced, and the motivations of the program founders. Typically, the fees for embryo adoption are less than those for a traditional adoption.

  4. What are advantages to partnering with clinics? When an agency chooses to partner with a fertility clinic the benefits positively impact both the adoption agencys clients and the agencys business.

    For clients, a partnership with a fertility clinic means an established potential source of donor embryos. Fertility clinics appreciate controlling the creating, freezing, thawing and transfer of embryos within that clinic. They feel that it gives their patients (your clients) a better opportunity for pregnancy success. For an agency, this means that a clinic partnership may provide a new source of revenue by opening opportunities for donor and adopter counseling, home studies and program fees.

    In an agency-clinic partnership each entity provides their expert services. The clinic focuses on the medical aspects of embryo adoption. The agency provides the social, psychological and legal aspects of the adoption process, taking that burden from the clinic. This eliminates future adoption-oriented liabilities to the clinic. They are not liabilities to the adoption agency, because the tasks are already a part of the adoption process.

  5. If we are not ready to start an embryo adoption program, how can our agency still be involved in embryo adoption? The greatest way any agency can participate in embryo adoption is simply to let clients know it is a viable alternative. We believe that an agency who includes information about embryo adoption in the education of their clients presents themselves truly as 'the expert' in adoption alternatives to their client.

    Embryo adoption is certainly not the right choice for everyone, but NOT knowing the choice is available can be detrimental as well. Many folks who have now successfully added embryo adopted children to their family, previously added children through domestic or international adoption. They learned about embryo adoption in their pursuit of additional children to build their family.

    The reason the Awareness Center works diligently to educate adoption agencies and clinics is because they are the gateways to the potential adopter and donor of embryos. It is our hope that both agencies and clinics will join us in raising awareness regarding embryo donation and adoption.

Embryo Adoption

Legal Concerns

  1. Is there legal precedence for the adoption or donation of frozen embryos? Currently there are no laws in the United States governing embryo adoption. The term adoption is used because the recipient of the donated embryos is hoping the outcome will be the birth of a child to be a part of their family - a child that is not genetically related to them - generally viewed as an adoption of a child.

    The process is simply occurring earlier in the biologically development of the child.

  2. What legal role does the agency play in Embryo Adoption? The legal role of an agency in the embryo donation and adoption process involves adoption agreements and relinquishment forms, which are legal contracts between the donor and recipient couples. These documents formalize the genetic parents relinquishment of their parental rights prior to the embryos being owned by and transferred into the adopting mother.

    In the United States embryos are legally property and not people. As such, the exchange of embryos from the donor to the adopter is governed by contract law. Embryo adoption agencies also incorporate the language of adoption law into the contracts since the hoped for end result is the birth of a human being.

    In two states (GA and LA) embryos have a special legal status. In Georgia embryo adopting families are invited by legislation to finalize their embryo adoption in court. In Louisiana embryos are legally defined as juridical persons, giving the embryo more value than simply a piece of property.

  3. What are the most significant legal issues associated with embryo adoption? The most significant legal issue associated with embryo donation and adoption relate to 1.) the unsettled nature of embryo adoption law, and 2.) 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.

  4. Which states currently have laws that affect embryo adoption or donation? A list of laws by state and journal articles addressing the issues of embryo donation and adoption are available at www.EmbryoLaw.org.

  5. If a state's laws are silent on the issue of embryo adoption, are there any steps that can be taken to protect the recipient family's parental rights? Most states recognize the birth parents as the legal parents. In embryo donation and adoption, the recipient couple's names are entered on the birth certificate and a court of law would most likely recognize them as the legal parents.

    Some families have opted to seek an order of parentage from the court while the adoptive mother is pregnant with the child to settle the issue prior to the child's birth. Other will finalize the adoption in the court after the birth of the child.

    The State of Georgia passed legislation in May 2009 allowing parents that adopted children as embryos to have the legal right to finalize the adoption in the court if they desire to do so.

  6. Is there a risk of commercialization of life through the adoption of embryos? There is always the risk of abuse in any process. Therefore, it is imperative that embryos be treated with the respect they deserve and, in order to discourage program participation based on profit incentives, that fees remain low. Embryo adoption programs must be operated with ethical and professional integrity.

Embryo Adoption

Fertility Clinics

General Information on Embryo Donation/Adoption

  1. How is embryo donation different from embryo adoption? Human embryos have been donated by families to fertility clinics for many years. Perhaps the legal ownership of the embryos was transferred between the donor and the clinic, perhaps not. In any event, the clinic staff became responsible for using these donated embryos to help other couples and singles achieve pregnancy or donate to scientific research. The achievement of successful pregnancy remains the primary goal of most fertility clinics today.

    Fertility clinics strive to provide their patients with excellent medical care. The social and emotional aspects surrounding the donation of embryos is generally not a priority. Donation programs within the clinic environment are mostly limited to the current patient population. There are a handful of clinics who make their embryo donation programs open to all.

    The medical staff of the clinic will normally choose which patients will receive particular donated embryos. It is not uncommon to have embryos donated by one family, and therefore genetically the same, divided between multiple recipients. The donor most likely will not know or be known by the recipient(s). Counseling for either the donor or recipient supplied by the clinic is rare.

    Adoption programs regard embryo donation as equivalent to a traditional adoption process since the hoped for outcome is the birth of a child, a child who is not related genetically to the recipient family. They will offer similar assistance and services as with a domestic adoption. The social and emotional aspects of this unique family building option are the agency's focus. Education of the donor and adopting family is child-centric with the end goal to help both families and the resulting children understand and manage these non-medical aspects of the process.

  2. What possible benefit could there be for our clinic to become involved with an adoption agency? When a clinic chooses to partner with an adoption agency the benefits positively impact both the clinic's patients and the clinic business. This partnership can move future liability regarding embryo placement issues from the clinic to the agency. The agency maintains the social, emotional and legal education and documentation of embryo adoption.

    - Offers direct assistance from the agency to patients for embryo disposition decisions

    - Agency manages the program, not the clinic, unbiased matching completed by agency

    - Future communication between parties is the agency's responsibility not the clinic's

    - Reduces clinic paperwork and future liabilities

    - Clinic controls embryo/birth statistics by keeping embryos in-house

    - New patients are directed to the clinic bringing new revenue

    - Uses embryos created, frozen and thawed by the clinic

    - Reduces embryo storage at the clinic

    - Reduced/eliminated transportation of embryos between clinics

  3. What are the most significant legal issues associated with embryo adoption?

    The most significant legal issue associated with embryo donation and adoption relates to the unsettled nature of embryo adoption law and 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 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.

  4. What are the benefits of embryo adoption to the donating family? It relieves the couple of the psychological burden of having frozen embryos that they in storage.

    They are honoring their own children who were born through the IVF process by allowing embryo siblings a chance at life.

    They experience the satisfaction of providing another infertile couple the chance to build their family.

    There is greater assurance that the adopting family has been well screened and evaluated for their ability to become successful in raising adopted children.

  5. What are the costs to the donating parents? There are no fees for the donating parents to participate in the program. There may be costs during the process if any additional blood work is required per FDA guidelines, depending on where the embryos are going and what types of tests the donating family has had, but the adopting family most likely will be asked to cover these costs.

  6. Does the adopting family help with any of the fees owed by the donating parents?

    Typically, adopting families do not pick up any of the expenses associated with the donor family's fertility treatment. Adopting families do often reimburse donating families for any expenses incurred during or after they are matched. This includes 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 experienced agency. Any sort of direct compensation for the embryos themselves is under the legal jurisdiction of each state, and interested parties should seeks legal advice to determine the applicable laws in their states. In general, such payments are not recommended by the American Society of 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.

Embryo Adoption

Medical Information and Requirements

  1. What type of patient medical information will our clinic receive about the donating parents and their embryos? Your clinic will receive:
    • Infectious disease screening results (an FDA requirement)
    • embryology reports
    • embryo freezing and thawing protocols

    It is likely that the program your patients are working with will be able to contact the donating parents and their clinic to obtain additional information as necessary.

  2. What are the current FDA requirements for blood tests?

    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:
    http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/TissueSafety/ucm095440.htm

    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 cryopreserved 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 and 2
    • HTLV I/II
    • Hepatitis B surface antigen
    • Hepatitis B Core Antibody (IgG/IgM)
    • Hepatitis C Antibody
    • RPR (Syphilis)
    • CMV IgG/IgM
    • Gonorrhea/Chlamydia culture
    • Blood Typing
    • Rh factor

  3. What counseling should be offered to the donating and adopting families? Counseling is an important component of the services that should be offered in an embryo adoption and, in fact, is specifically included in the ASRM's guidelines for donating embryos. Drawing upon the traditional model of adoption, the type of counseling services made available and offered in an embryo adoption situation should be similar. 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.

Embryo Adoption

Storage and Transportation of Embryos

  1. Where are the embryos stored while the genetic/donor family is finding an adoptive couple? Who pays for that storage? The embryos remain stored at the original IVF clinic or at a long term storage facility designated by the genetic/donor family during the adoption process. The genetic family pays for storage during this time.

  2. Who handles the coordination of the embryos' travel from one clinic to another? It is usually the responsibility of the patient's private embryo adoption provider, agency or attorney to coordinate the embryo's travel between the placing and adopting clinics.

  3. What if the clinic does not have a dry shipper? The agency or attorney with whom your patients are working should be able to coordinate the rental of an appropriate shipping container for you.

  4. What are best practices regarding embryo storage? Some clinics have time limits regarding storage of your embryos at their facility. After that time limit has expired they may require patients to move their embryos to an off-site facility (a cryo-bank) or give them the option to have the embryos discarded.

    If your clinic already does, or is considering moving your frozen embryos to a cryo-bank, it is critical for you to understand the rules governing the storage of these embryos from your patient's perspective. How easy will it be for your patient to access their embryos from the cryo-bank? Will it be a financial burden to them to remove them from the cryo-bank should they choose to donate their embryos in the future?

    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.

Embryo Adoption

Embryo Recipient Guidelines

  1. Is there a limit on the length of time our recipient patients have to use their adopted embryos? Time limits are usually incorporated into the legal contract language for the transfer of embryos from one party to another.

  2. If there are still adopted embryos remaining after our recipient patients are done, what do we do? In an embryo adoption program it is customary for the adopting family to return any embryos they do not plan to use for their own family building to the original donating family. The original family can they determine and choose a second adopting family for their embryos.

    This issue is usually detailed in the contracts signed by both parties to eliminate future surprises.

Embryo Adoption

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"For our family, embryo donation allowed us to give a precious gift to a family in need
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and also give the chance for life to our remaining embryos."
Jennene


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Embryo Donation & Adoption Families


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