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Embryo Donation As A Family Building Option

May 9, 2013

Boston IVF has received a two-year, one-million dollar grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to increase patient awareness of embryo donation. There are currently more than 600,000 embryos frozen in the U.S., a result of IVF cycles where excess embryos are created. Options for patients who have excess embryos and have completed their family building are: donate the embryos to research, discard them, continue to freeze them, or donate the embryos to another individual or couple. The study will research patient attitudes and awareness on embryo donation and develop a program that will influence other fertility practices to support embryo donation.

In phase one of the study, a survey was sent to more than 1,000 people who had frozen embryos at Boston IVF. The survey ascertained if patients understand their options related to their frozen embryos, if they know embryo donation is an option – and if so, how much they know about it.

Alison Zimon, M.D., a Reproductive Endocrinologist at Boston IVF and Principal Investigator of the Program says that during the phase two of the study they are developing resources and training the nursing staff, embryology staff, mental health professionals and social workers to know how to best educate patients. Control groups are getting access to these resources and support to help them with their decision-making regarding their frozen embryos.

“The feedback that we’re getting right now is that is people are overjoyed with the option of a consultation with a mental health professional and social worker and appreciative of having the opportunity to learn more,” Zimon says.

Zimon says that while 600,000 embryos are currently cryopreserved, a small percentage are mostly likely available for donation. However, many people aren’t aware that it is an option.

“Embryo donation is very similar to egg donation,” Zimon says. “You have to have the infrastructure in place. You have to find a match, there’s a system for screening in keeping with FDA regulations, and it has to be financially available and accessible for people. What we’re trying to do is make it less complex by making a template that facilitates it for potential donors and potential recipients.”

“The idea is to supply any interested clinic with the materials that we develop as a template to use in their clinic,” she adds.

The study is a collaboration between Boston IVF and Brandeis University.


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