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Embryo donation — also known as embryo adoption from the donor embryo recipient's perspective — is a form of third party reproduction in which the embryos that are left over from one couple's in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle are donated to another person or couple. Generally, there is no compensation for the donor in embryo donation, except for certain expenses such as medical tests, and transferring and thawing embryos.
The donor embryo(s) is placed into the recipient's uterus with the hope that it will implant and become a successful pregnancy. The resulting child is the child of the woman who carries it and gives birth; however his or her genetic traits are those of the embryo donor.
Embryo donors are carefully screened for health problems and genetic diseases prior to the retrieval of eggs and sperm to create the embryos when they are undergoing IVF. In addition, donors may be rescreened at the time of donation of their embryos. Donor egg recipients also must undergo medical screening and testing.
IVF often create an excess of fertilized eggs (embryos), which the individual or couple may freeze for future frozen embryo transfers. Once it is decided that the family is complete, there may still be frozen embryos available. These options for these embryos are:
- remaining cryopreserved indefinitely
- thawing to destroy
- transferring to the uterus during a time when it is not likely the woman will become pregnant
- donating the embryos to research
- donating the embryos to another individual or couple who is unable to conceive
If embryos are donated to another individual or couple, the donor couple is giving someone else the opportunity to possibly experience pregnancy and the birth of a child.
Donor Embryo Recipients
When an individual or couple chooses to use a donor embryo, it may be called "embryo adoption." However, based on current law, the true adoption only refers to the placement of a child with a family after he or she is born.
Choosing embryo donation is similar to choosing egg donation or sperm donation to build your family. In addition, couples who may be considering adoption of a child may be interested in donor embryos as an alternative to what can be a long, expensive process of adopting a child in the United States or from overseas.
How Successful Is Embryo Donation?
Embryo donation is a developing field. Its success rates, as measured by live births per embryo transfer, depend on the embryo’s quality, the egg donor’s age, the number of embryos transferred and the embryo’s developmental stage when frozen. According to the National Embryo Donation Center, the organization's live birth rate with embryo donation is 50 percent.
Choosing embryo donation can also be cost-effective. According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, the average cost of embryo donation ranges from $2,500 to $4,000, while the average cost of an IVF cycle is $12,400.