How Does Embryo Adoption Work?

Artificial insemination of an egg in a laboratory.

Embryo adoption is an exciting option for individuals and couples looking to create or build their family.

Advances in the quality and efficiency of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) have improved dramatically over the years. The relative success of these improvements have created a situation where IVF patients who have completed their families are left with remaining embryos they choose not to destroy.

Embryo adoption has emerged from this. IVF patients with remaining embryos can place their embryos for adoption with couples who have experienced failed infertility treatments. This win-win situation provides an opportunity for all parties, particularly as there is no cost for the embryos (other than a small storage fee), unlike fees associated with the use of donor eggs or donor sperm.

How does an embryo adoption work?

Patients wishing to adopt an embryo will need to complete an application with an embryo adoption agency. You’ll have the opportunity to detail your desires regarding the donor family and embryo. Intended parents can choose embryos based on limited information that may include age, race or physical characteristics. There may be a waiting list for embryo adoption as well, depending on the surplus of embryos at any given IVF center. Along with providing a less complicated regimen at a lower cost, embryo adoption can offer a 30-50% success rate based on embryo quality and other factors.

Rules are in place for adoption of an embryo. Some requirements include the adopting mother is deemed capable to carry a child to term. Her doctor will be asked to provide a letter stating that there are no contraindications to pregnancy, which mean she has no medical reason that will prevent her from carrying a pregnancy to term.

Eligibility requirements may vary with each embryo adoption agency. Most have general requirements for the adopting parents. These could include an age limit for the adopting mother, couples who do not suffer from infertility may not be allowed to adopt, whether the couple can use a surrogate to carry the selected embryos, adopting when out of state or country and marital status. Some agencies decline homosexuals from adopting.

You’ll need to select a medical professional, usually a doctor in a fertility clinic, to assist with preparing your womb and providing the frozen embryo transfer.

The adoption agency provides legal contracts. You can choose to work directly with a clinic or with a donation program. You also have the option to work directly with a donor. Whichever path you choose, be sure to include a legal contract. The agreement will release the embryos of their ownership prior to the frozen embryo transfer. A legal contract will safeguard both you and the embryo.

After you submit an application, agencies require the adopting family to complete a home study to work with an agency.

The process takes about six months to match you with a donor family. The length of time varies based on different factors. The agency takes into account your age, the requirements you specified about the donor family, and the type of the embryos you desire.

The donating parents legally transfer ownership and parental rights once they sign the contract. The embryos are shipped after the contract is signed and the donators have relinquished their rights. Both the contract agreement and relinquishment forms are legally binding agreements. Once the embryos are transferred, the donating parents no longer have a legal claim or responsibility to any resulting children.

Be prepared to ask questions when looking for a fertility clinic. You’ll want to know if the clinic accepts embryos from another clinic for a frozen embryo transfer. Are the infertility specialists qualified to work with adopted embryos? Is the clinic or its staff registered with any national associations for the advancement of quality and standards?

Embryo adoption can be a viable way to grow your family.

More on moving forward after infertility HERE