Embryo Adoption: Where do I start?

One in eight couples struggle with infertility. And many times couples who face infertility will end up doing IVF to achieve parenthood. In a nutshell, IVF (in-vitro fertilization)  is the procedure where a mother's eggs are harvested and her partners sperm and her harvested eggs are united in a lab to create embryos. Usually one or two embryos are placed back into the mother's uterus in an embryo transfer with the hopes that one or both will grow into a baby. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they aren't. The remaining embryos that were not used are frozen and stored so that the couple can use them later if they are not successful, or if they want to build their family further. But sometimes they are all done building their family yet they still have frozen embryos left over in storage. For couples who don't wish to donate to science or to destroy their embryos, but instead wish to see their frozen embryos have a chance at life, it's an incredible opportunity for another couple to "adopt" these embryos to grow their family in a way they otherwise couldn't.

Where do I start?

Once you decide to begin researching embryo adoption/donation the next question is "Where do I start?" One of the most challenging aspects of Embryo Adoption/Donation is that currently there is no central place to begin. There is no single place with a compilation of resources, except those that are run by a specific agency. Here is some information that I've learned along the way that hopefully will help you get started. .

Embryo Adoption vs Embryo Donation

Let's start with a little terminology. I personally find myself using the term Embryo Adoption to cover most donor embryo situations, because it seems like it's easier for the masses to understand. But you will find that those in the IF community use the terms Embryo Adoption (EA) and Embryo Donation (ED) differently depending on the situation. There is no hard and fast rule here, but here are my personal observations. EA is usually used when you go through an agency and have a home study, or locate embryos and orchestrate your adoption yourself. Legally speaking, there is no such thing as actually 'adopting' an embryo, however the process to transfer ownership is what we refer to to as embryo adoption. EA can be an open, semi-open or closed/anonymous 'adoption'. ED is the term that is usually used when you go through a clinic, and generally ED through a clinic is done anonymously. 

Open, semi-open, or anonymous?

I suggest that before you do anything else on your EA/ED journey, you and your partner should research and decide which of these scenarios you are comfortable with: open, semi-open, or closed/anonymous.  Open adoption gives you the ability to know your donor family and have regular contact with them if that is what you both wish. Semi-open may be the ability to give updates to the donor family yearly, on birthdays, etc, but no regular contact. And of course closed/anonymous is no contact at all and you will likely never know who your donors are beyond basic profile information. There are pros and cons to each of these routes. With open or semi-open, you have the option to know the donor couple and have some level of a relationship. Your future children may find a benefit in knowing this piece of their genetic puzzle. However, going this route can take longer and be more expensive than anonymous ED through a clinic. Many clinics with ED programs have long waiting lists, but some do not. It depends on the clinic. Overall, ED and anonymous is the least expensive choice. Once you decide which route you'd like to take, you can begin researching specific options, clinics and agencies. Click on each of the tabs above to learn more.

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