15 Things You Need To Know About Embryo Adoption

How Does Embryo Adoption Work?

Whether you're going through or planning to go through IVF there is a possibly that you will have embryos left over. Thanks to liquid nitrogen your embryos can be perfectly preserved for later use, whether you're able to carry at that point or use a surrogate. Science. is. amazing. The oldest frozen embryo to result in live birth of a healthy baby boy had been on ice for 20 years.* But these leaps and bounds in reproductive medicine invite some difficult decisions to be made by genetic embryo parents. Luckily the growing awareness of embryo adoption is giving peace of mind to many couples, as well as giving infertile couples the chance of parenthood. 

We were lucky enough to attend a seminar at the American Fertility Expo last week where Leah Freeman of Snowflake embryo adoption services gave us the facts. Here is everything you need to know about sharing the love:

  1. Embryo adoption and anonymous embryo donation are not the same things. Embryo adoption works very much like a typical adoption. Usually, there is contact between the donating genetic parents and the adopting family. Anonymous embryo donation is usually through a fertility clinic, not an agency, and there is little to no information given about the embryo you receive other than the required medical background. Anonymous embryo donation can be cheaper.
  2. Yes, you can nurse. Nurse, pump...your boobs will be capable of it all. An embryo adoption is a biological pregnancy and you're the mum, so gear up for major hooters.
  3. Adoption tax credit applies to embryo adoption. This can include a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance.**
  4. Embryo adoption only takes 6-12 months. Paperwork, yeah, but only a fraction of what a typical adoption requires. This timeline includes your application phase, matching phase, fertility clinic approval (you have to be able to carry to term), contract phase, shipping phase, and voila- transfer. During this time you'll also be working on prepping your body for pregnancy.
  5. Embryo adoption is generally less expensive than a third party tissue donor. Embryo adoption is currently $12-16k, compared to donor eggs which run $10-50K. Eggs are purchased, embryos are donated.
  6. There is generally an age cut off for adopters. If you're a woman over the age of 47, it could be difficult to find a program willing to do an embryo transfer. Male single parents or same-sex couples will not be considered for most programs if they're over 55. Remember that you or your surrogate will need to get signed off on by a doctor, proving that you can safely carry to term. Sometimes, however, it's not as much a matter of health as it is an age preference for adopters set by genetic donors. An anonymous embryo donation is something to consider, as donors cannot stipulate requirements for adopters. 
  7. They're over 600,000 frozen embryos in the United States alone. Progressively more and more families donate their leftover embryos following IVF, but it's still only a small percentage of the 600,000 on ice (about 7%).*** Some people hold onto the embryos to later grow their families, but the majority of couples (around 60%) not willing to donate keep embryos frozen indefinitely. It boils down to values really. To freeze an embryo runs families an annual price tag of $500-1,500. 
  8. Frozen embryos fall under property law. Even though the adoption process is similar to typical adoption, legislation does not consider them comparable. Whatever arrangement you make with a donor family will fall under property law, and be universally honored. It's actually incredibly secure. 
  9. You can't ship embryos overseas. Cause, customs. The lovely folks at border control are required to open any and all dry vapor shippers. This is dangerous to the embryo, and therefore international adoptions require the adopting party to travel to them. 
  10. You can pay a fee to reserve siblings. More than one embryo left over from your donors? You can pay a holding fee for the additional embryos to potentially give your children genetic siblings down the road. Pricing varies.
  11. Usually, there is no psych screening required. Unlike traditional adoptions and donor eggs and sperm, neither party needs a mental health screening. On rare occasions, donors will request it, but for better or for worse most agencies won't require it. 
  12. "Success rate" is not equal to "live birth rate." Make sure you demand "live birth rates" from your potential agency or clinic. Don't let anyone slip by with a claim of "success rate," as this often refers to implantation only, and does not accurately reflect the rate of healthy babies brought home. 
  13. Embryo adoptions can be easier on couples than tissue donation. As important as it is to some families to pass on genetics, often times a donor situation can present problems. Bonding can be stronger for the genetic parent, discomfort regarding the donor can arise, and partnerships can fall out of equilibrium. It's important to talk about these potential outcomes before agreeing on a path to family building. 
  14. You still could pass DNA to your child. New research is suggesting that the carrying mother is capable of passing micro RNA's to her donor embryo through womb secretions.**** While these RNA's are not capable of reprogramming physical traits (that we're aware of anyway) they can turn on and off certain genetic factors in child's adult health. (our post on this is upcoming - join the newsletter for the latest - we bring our favorite nueroscientist on board to debunk the latest research out there).
  15. Many adopting families include genetic parents in child's life. Even social workers in this space have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of contact embryo adopters value with the genetic parents. Some will welcome the donors as extended family, including them in holidays and birthdays, or meet once a year for a Disneyland reunion, kids and all. Preferences about the level of contact are entirely up to donors and adopters and should be stipulated before the matching phase of your adoption. 


Vital Info After Your Embryo Transfer or FET


Freeman, Leah. "Embryo Donation & Adoption: The Affordable Choice." American Fertility Expo. Pasadena Conference Center, Pasadena. April 29, 2017. Seminar. 

(It should be noted that Snowflake is part of Nightlight Adoptions, and is therefore, an organization) 





(No conflicts of interest in the above sources) 

Photo Credit: http://poetryconcrete.tumblr.com/post/145205064924/barragan-house-by-luis-barragan-1948