Embryo adoption, also called embryo donation, is a way for a hopeful mother to become pregnant and carry her adopted child to birth. Donated embryos provide a chance for waiting parents to have child and save unused embryos from being destroyed. You may have heard these babies called “snowflake babies.” This phrase comes from Nightlight, a Christian adoption agency who was at the forefront of embryo adoption and calls their program Snowflakes Embryo Adoption. Why snowflakes? In their words, “each snowflake is frozen, unique and a gift from heaven.”
Embryo adoption takes place when cryogenically preserved fertilized eggs are given to another recipient to have a chance at becoming pregnant and giving birth to a child. When another couple has used IVF, (In Vitro Fertilization) there may be fertilized eggs, called embryos, which are not used. Often this is because the couple has decided their family is complete, but still have some embryos preserved. These couples have the opportunity to donate their embryos to another couple who is unable to conceive. Embryo adoption can give the genetic parents an opportunity to give their embryos life while enabling an infertile couple to become parents.
Adopting an embryo is much like adopting a child. The process begins with an application and approval through an agency, followed by a home study which will help determine your readiness for parenthood. The home study takes place the early stages of the process and is a good opportunity to ask questions and prepare. Then it’s time to be matched with a donor/embryo. A social worker will help you create a profile for what you are looking for in the adoption, such as contact with the genetic family and preferences for matching. You will be able to see photos of donor families and learn their medical history. Using your profile, a genetic family can then choose you to have their embryos. Following legal contracts and paperwork, you can begin the embryo transfer process with your fertility clinic. The entire process can typically be accomplished in less than a year. The cost for embryo adoption is generally less expensive than adopting domestically or internationally. Cost can vary based on state, agency and fertility clinic, so if fees are a concern do some research first.
Why would someone choose embryo adoption? If a couple is infertile and looking at fertility treatments, they may decide there are many reasons to choose embryo adoption. They may wish to avoid infertility treatments that may be expensive, lengthy, and discouraging. Embryo adoption is appealing to women who want to experience the pregnancy and birth of her child. By doing so, she is able to manage the prenatal care of the baby. The mother-to-be can control the environment regarding what she eats, regular doctor’s appointments and other aspects of a healthy pregnancy. Medical history of the couple might also be a consideration. The prospective parents may carry a genetic disease they don’t want to pass on to their children. In that case, using a healthy embryo is an option. From an emotional standpoint, many people see embryos as the beginning of human life and want to give them a chance to become babies rather than be destroyed.
Embryo adoption may not be right for everyone, but it is one more option available to couples hoping to grow their family.