Using donated embryos
The miracle of a baby begins at conception–when sperm meets egg. But many women cannot conceive a child because they produce few or no eggs or embryos that do not develop properly. This is particularly common in women over the age of 40, for whom in vitro fertilization IVF with their own eggs has limited success. Other women may have a genetic disease and do not want to pass on that risk to their child.
This brief overview of the process of embryo donation will complement a more thorough discussion with your physician, who will offer a more informative and thorough way to make sure you embark upon the most successful course to build a family, specific to your individual needs.
Is embryo adoption a good option for you?
The benefits of embryo donation include:
- Being able to carry a pregnancy and deliver a baby
- Raise a child from the earliest stage of development
- Share in the wonder of parenting
RSC request all patients considering embryo adoption to have a consultation with a mental health care professional. At this visit, you will be able to explore more deeply your thoughts on the process, whether being anonymous or not is right for you, and whether you will tell your child. Other issues also may surface, including feelings about infertility, and having a counselor to help you through this process can be invaluable. The donating couple will also need to see a mental health counselor. Letters from the mental health professionals will be a part of your medical record with RSC.
Important questions to consider:
- Is carrying a pregnancy an exciting thought for you?
- Do you feel that using donor eggs and your husband’s sperm might create an unequal parenting situation that might cause conflict down the road? Does embryo donation seem more equitable?
- Would you really like to be a part of your child’s story from the very beginning — the embryonic stage?
- How important is it for you to avoid the legal issues that might come from traditional adoption or faster adoption?
- Are you okay with knowing the donating couple? Do you want all children conceived to know each other or be aware of each other?
- Do you want to be a part of the solution for the hundreds of thousands of embryos in storage?
- Are you willing to take on the medical/genetic history of the couple that used IVF to create the embryos? It will be a part of your child’s health history.
- Do you have the patience it may take to find embryos up for donation?
Embryo adoption process
Once you have decided that embryo donation is right for you, you should choose the embryos you wish to receive. RSC does not have an in-house embryo donation program, but will refer you to agencies that can facilitate an arrangement for someone to donate embryos to you, or for you to select already donated embryos. You may know someone who wishes to donate personally to you or you may wish to use an anonymous donor.
Selecting a donor
You must first decide if you wish to use an anonymous or known donor. It is necessary for the donating couple has the same preferences.
Other characteristics that may be important to you might include ethnicity, hair and eye color, height and body type, academic achievement, extracurricular interests, and family history.
It may take weeks or months to find embryos. Some patients will start this process but then switch to an alternative way to build a family if they are not finding embryos quickly.
Medical and legal evaluation
The intended mother will need to be evaluated to make sure that her uterus is able to carry a pregnancy and that she responds to the medicine used in an embryo donation cycle. This will include a saline sonogram (or hysterosalpingogram or hysteroscopy) and often a mock embryo cycle using estrogen therapy.
A series of laboratory tests on the intended parents will ensure the healthiest pregnancy and satisfy requirements all IVF clinics have regarding infectious disease and possible transmission in pregnancy.
Both the donating couple and the intended parents must sign legal documents to state their intentions. We will provide you with a list of attorneys who are well versed in reproductive legal issues, or you can use one of your choosing. If the donated embryos have come through an agency, legal guidance is one of the services usually included by the agency. This is a critical step to make sure the arrangement is clear for your benefit, as well as the benefit of the children.
You may request a detailed family history performed by a geneticist, especially if this is a personal donation.
You will meet with a financial counselor to review the costs involved in this process.
When you have obtained the embryos
Once the embryos are legally yours, the “frozen embryo cycle” can begin. If the intended mother is still having periods, RSC will start the frozen cycle with her next period. If she is no longer having menstrual cycles, the physician will initiate the cycle with medicine if necessary.
How does frozen embryo transfer (FET) work?
The day on which the embryos were cryopreserved will determine the day of the embryo transfer. This is approximately three weeks after the start of the recipient’s period. Within 9-11 days after the transfer a blood test will determine pregnancy.
If pregnant, you will stay on medication for up to five more weeks, during which time you will have several blood tests and usually two ultrasounds to confirm the pregnancy. At nine weeks estimated gestational age, you will transfer your care to an OB/GYN for the remainder of the pregnancy and delivery.
If you have extra embryos, you can undergo another cycle immediately if you are not pregnant. If you have a healthy delivery, you can conceive again usually 6-12 months later. Whether or not you can donate, discard, or help research with the remaining embryos is usually stipulated in the original legal contract.