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Embryo Donation

When a couple goes through fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), there are usually extra fertilized eggs that are frozen and stored for later use. Sometimes a couple will decide that their family is complete when they still have embryos available. In such cases, they may choose to donate their remaining embryos, allowing other infertile couples to carry, give birth to and raise a child of their own. This is known as embryo donation.

A well-established and successful form of assisted reproductive technology (ART), embryo donation offers hope for thousands of couples who previously thought they would be unable to conceive. If, for example, a woman is unable to produce or use eggs of her own and her partner has a low sperm count, embryo donation can offer a solution to their combined fertility problems.

The embryo donation process usually costs less and has fewer medical complications than IVF, and the rates of success compare with those of egg donation. However, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the estimated number of human embryos in frozen storage in the United States is more than 400,000. Of this number, approximately 88 percent are still being used by the genetic parents of the embryos to build their own families, while the other 22 percent are ready and waiting for an infertile couple to "adopt" them.

Embryo donation vs. embryo adoption

Embryo donation and embryo adoption both refer to the giving and receiving of fertilized eggs that are created during an IVF cycle. Typically, embryo donating parents tend to use the term "donation," while receiving couples tend to use the term "adoption." According to the official Web site of the Embryo Adoption Awareness Campaign, the basis for this is more psychological than practical.

Donation, it states, is used in the sense of "giving a gift" and offers a genetic couple an emotional separation from the embryos. For a couple wanting to raise the child born from the embryo, on the other hand, the term "adoption" both legally and socially explains the transfer of parental rights associated with traditional adoption. It also suggests that referring to receiving an embryo as adopting it may also help the couple explain to the their child in the future how they became a family.

Legally, however, "adoption" implies that a child has already been born and is then placed into a family. With embryo donation, even though you and your baby are not genetically connected, he or she is born into your family and you and your partner are named as parents on the birth certificate. According to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive, an overwhelming number of respondents said the term 'embryo donation,' as opposed to 'embryo adoption,' best describes the process.

Types of embryo donation

There are two types of embryo donation: known embryo donation and anonymous embryo donation. In a known embryo donation, both the donors and the recipients exchange their full names and other personal information, and they come to a mutual agreement regarding the donation of embryos. An anonymous embryo donation is when the donors and the recipients do not know each other's identities and no contact will be made between the couples during the donation process or in the future. While some donors wish to be involved in the selection of the couple who will receive their frozen embryo, others are satisfied just knowing they have helped another infertile couple.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
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