Now What? What to Consider With Your Unused Embryos.


Successful IVF cycles are a miracle as any couple becoming pregnant via IVF will attest to. Unfortunately not all IVF cycles are successful. One unintended consequence of a successful or unsuccessful IVF cycle may be the difficult decision of what to do with any unused embryos. This can become a highly charged issue for the couple.

Many factors may come into play. Should you have the embryos preserved for future use (cryopreservation)? This decision could be made for the couple’s future use of the embryos or possibly to donate to another infertile couple. Issues of family planning, religious beliefs, ethical considerations or even financial constraints may also be important to you or your partner and should not be taken lightly.

A few years back the American Society for Reproductive Medicine examined patient decisions regarding unused embryos prior to fertility treatment and found that 54 percent were very likely to use them for their own reproduction, 21 percent were very likely to donate them to stem cell research, 7 percent were very likely to donate them to another infertile couple and 6 percent were very likely to thaw and dispose of the embryos.

Each of these options has their own considerations to be discussed with your partner. Following treatment, many couples not able to come to a mutual decision leave the embryos in a cyro-preserved state indefinitely. This can be a costly option.

If you are considering IVF or find yourself with this emotional charged dilemma post-IVF, consider the following helpful information.

Learn about your options

As mentioned above there are many options for you and your partner to consider. They include cryopreservation for your future reproductive use, discarding (allowing them to thaw and have a natural end), or donating to another infertile couple or research. Each carries their own personal costs (both financially and ethically). Some options may not be available to you. And some options may be time consuming and emotionally draining. Learn your options.

Ask for advice

For some the decision is easy. For others very difficult. Don’t be rushed into making a decision you will live with for the rest of your life. Speak to your physician, religious or spiritual advisor, a psychologist or counselor knowledgeable in assisted reproduction, family members and even close friends. If you are considering donating to another couple speak with an attorney experienced in reproductive law. Few states have regulations regarding embryo donation and you should be clear about the legal risks involved. You are making a very personal and important decision so get the facts and get advice.

Donate to science

This has become a more common option for many couples. It is simple and easy to accomplish. Speak with the embryologist at your clinic for more information about this option and what will happen with the embryos.

Donate to another couple

This option must be carefully considered. Don’t go this option alone. Seek legal counsel and know what you are getting involved in. You will have to consider whether you want an open or anonymous donation for example. Remember your embryos may produce a child(ren) who would be genetic siblings to your child(ren). Another consideration is what happens to the embryos if the receiving couple does not use them all? This option while sounding like a beautiful thing to do for another infertile couple (and it is) presents many issues that only a skilled attorney can walk you through. It may also be an expensive option.

Can’t immediately decide

Don’t worry. These options will remain for you to consider for awhile. However, if you are not planning on immediately (one to two years) using your embryos consider having them transferred to a long-term storage facility rather than having your doctor’ office store them. This is a very common option, completely safe and can save you a lot of money over time. Talk to the clinic embryologist about whom they recommend and how to proceed.

When you begin IVF treatment you will be asked to make one of the above choices. Be prepared!

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