When facing infertility challenges, there are several paths you can take to start or grow your family. If natural conception has been unsuccessful, you can pursue options like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, or adoption. 

When someone goes through IVF, it typically begins with egg harvesting. The eggs are then fertilized and the embryos that are viable are frozen for future use. These embryos will be implanted in the uterus in hopes of a successful pregnancy as you go through each round of IVF. If your embryo implantation is successful or you choose to stop pursuing pregnancy, you may end up with leftover embryos, which is where embryo donation and adoption come in. 

Read more: Egg Donation

What Is Embryo Adoption?

Embryo adoption or Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) involves donating these surplus viable embryos to individuals or couples facing their own fertility challenges. The recipient of an adopted embryo undergoes a medical procedure to transfer the embryo into their uterus, with the hope of achieving a successful pregnancy.

This embryo would not be genetically related to the mother carrying it but to the mother who donated it. Though not genetically related, the prospective mother still gets to experience the joys of pregnancy and childbirth, forming a bond with the fetus in utero just as they would if it were their own biological child. 

What Is Embryo Donation?

Once you have a successful pregnancy or choose to end your IVF journey, you may have some viable embryos left over. Your options are to leave them frozen, continue to pay for their storage at a facility, unfreeze them and dispose of them, donate them to research, or donate them to another couple that is unable to conceive on their own — or going through their IVF journey — just like you.  

Read more: Frozen Embryos

Embryo donation can be done through a fertility clinic or an adoption agency that specializes in this type of adoption. Embryo adoption is legally complex because the embryo is technically considered “property”  rather than a child under the law in most countries. The clinic or agency you choose to work with can guide you through this process and the transfer of “ownership.”

Embryo Adoption Process 

If you’re curious about the embryo adoption process, the steps below outline generally what you can expect.

Read more: Fresh Egg Donation

Step 1: Choosing Your Adoption Type 

One of the most important decisions when choosing to adopt an embryo is choosing the relationship you, the biological parents, and the child will have as the child grows up. You can choose between an “open” or “closed” adoption, which determines if the embryo’s biological parents will be part of your family’s life. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, but this is a profoundly personal decision as it will determine your family dynamic down the road. 

  • An open adoption gives the biological and adoptive parents a choice to communicate or meet, where you can discuss if you want the biological parents to meet or be a part of the child’s life when they are born.
  • A closed adoption typically does not include communication with the biological parents. Genetic information on the donors is kept on file with the donor embryo, but their identities remain anonymous. They won’t know who adopted the embryo, and you won’t know who the embryo is from. 
  • There is also an option for a semi-open adoption, where parental communication is mediated or scheduled. 

Step 2: Choosing Your Facilitator

The second step of embryo adoption is choosing if you’d like to adopt through an agency or your fertility clinic. This decision is related to whether you want an open or closed adoption, as most clinics provide only a closed adoption model, and many agencies tend toward an open or semi-open adoption framework. 

The cost of adoption is also a factor when choosing a facilitator. Adoption agencies tend to charge more because they are more involved in the matching, testing, and communication processes. The cost of the medical procedures, legal fees, and screening remain the same, but agencies tend to charge fees for matching services or communication facilitation on top of that. Agencies provide a more comprehensive and custom matching and evaluation process, which comes at a higher cost. 

Step 3: Completing Your Home Study

Most agencies will require a home study, and some clinics do as well. Home studies evaluate living conditions and the overall readiness of adoptive parents to ensure a safe and happy placement. A licensed social worker conducts the home study; this may include components like interviews, home visits, and background checks. The home study also helps prospective parents understand and prepare for the challenges associated with raising a child who is not genetically related to them. 

Step 4: Embryo Selection/Matching

After the home study, the next step is the selection or matching of embryos. This process can vary significantly depending on whether you are working with an agency or a fertility clinic and whether the adoption is open or closed.

  • In open agency adoptions, both the embryo donors and the adoptive parents have a say in the matching process through the collection and selection of profiles that include medical history, interests, and more. This approach allows for both sides to make a decision and select a donor/parent based on preferences and values, which the agency facilitates. Communication is encouraged to discuss expectations and the level of future contact. This method encourages a collaborative relationship and ensures both parties are comfortable with their decision. 
  • Closed agency adoptions maintain confidentiality, with no direct communication between donors and adoptive parents. The agency matches embryos to adoptive families based on medical history, physical characteristics, and specific preferences without revealing their identities. Adoptive and donor parents receive all necessary medical and background information about the others. 
  • Clinic-based closed adoptions focus on medical compatibility and embryo quality, often without providing detailed donor profiles. The adoptive parents will always be apprised of any predisposition for genetic conditions or health problems, but not much beyond that is disclosed. The fertility clinic then selects embryos for the adoptive parents based on the outlined criteria. This process is focused on the potential for a successful pregnancy, with all identities kept confidential.

Every clinic or agency has a different process, so it is essential to do your research and select the right provider for you and your family. 

Step 5: Completing the Legal Process

The legal process for embryo adoption depends on where you live, as every country has different regulations for the transfer of embryo “ownership.” The legal agreements will detail the relinquishment of parental rights by the donors and establish the adoptive parents as the legal parents of any child born from the embryos. You may need to hire your own counsel to help you through the legal process, or your adoption agency may provide these services. 

Step 6: Implantation

After the successful selection of an embryo and completion of the legal process, the clinic will go ahead with the process of implanting the embryo in the prospective mother’s uterus, a process called Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET). Similar to IVF, the adoptive mother will undergo a series of medical screenings and may need to take medications to prepare her body for pregnancy. Timing is essential for the establishment of pregnancy, so the implantation will be timed based on the adoptive mother’s menstrual cycle to maximize the chances that the pregnancy is successful. 

Some countries require that the adoption be finalized in court after the child is born as an additional step, but this is not necessary everywhere. 

Benefits Of Embryo Adoption

There are various embryo adoption benefits. These include:

Embryo Adoption Cost

There are many paths to becoming a parent, each with its own benefits, drawbacks, and price tags. 

The cost of embryo adoption can vary greatly depending on whether you go through an agency or a clinic. Agencies will sometimes charge match fees, agency fees, or require home visits, but the base cost is around $3 000, not including legal counsel. But even at the upper end of the price range for embryo adoption, it’s still cheaper than domestic or international adoption of an infant. 

Domestic or International Adoption: $50,000 – $100,000

IVF: $10,000 – $18,000 per cycle

Egg Donation: $10,000 – $50,000 

Embryo Adoption: $3,000 – $25,000

Experience the Magic of Pregnancy and Childbirth

If you want to begin bonding with your adoptive child before they’re even born, embryo adoption gives you that and more. Experiencing pregnancy milestones, feeling the first kicks, and eventually going through labor and delivery creates a deep and early bond between you and your adopted child. 

The ability to breastfeed can strengthen this connection, providing not only nutritional benefits for the baby but also reinforcing a nurturing bond. This early period of physical closeness lays a strong foundation for a loving and connected maternal relationship.

An Alternative Path for Males with Infertility or Genetic Conditions

Embryo adoption presents a solution for fathers with infertility issues or genetic predispositions they prefer not to pass on to their children. For men facing these obstacles, embryo adoption ensures that they can actively participate in their child’s life from pregnancy through to birth and beyond. This route provides a sense of involvement and connection that traditional adoption might not offer while still allowing them to be part of the pregnancy journey alongside their partner.

Quicker Timeline for Parenthood than Adoption

The time required for adopting a child compared to adopting an embryo can vary significantly based on factors including legal, procedural, and individual circumstances. Traditional child adoption processes can be lengthy, often taking several years, due to extensive legal work, matching processes, and potentially long waiting lists. 

Embryo adoption, on the other hand, is quicker in terms of procedural steps. The process can potentially be completed within a few months to a year, primarily depending on the availability of suitable embryos, the medical procedures involved, the mother’s health, and the success of the pregnancy. 

Donor Embryo Vs. Donor Egg

A donor embryo results from a fused sperm and egg that is allowed to develop for a few days and then frozen for later use. A donor egg has not yet been combined with sperm, which can be sourced from a donor or the prospective father. 

A donor embryo is recommended over a donor egg when both parents have fertility issues or genetic conditions they do not want to pass on to their child. 

Donor Embryo Success Rates

The success rate of embryo adoption depends on factors like the age of the embryo, quality, developmental stage, number of embryos transferred, and more. Since most embryo donors are from parents who successfully conceived and no longer need the rest of the embryos, the success rate is generally high. 

Data from 2021 from the CDC indicates that about 42.3% of donated embryos result in a live birth compared to a figure of 50.7% live birth rate for women under 35 who use their own eggs. 

If you’re interested in this route of embryo donation toward creating the family you’ve always dreamed of, contact our team at ELITE IVF today. Our caring and compassionate professionals are ready to help. We are experts at embryo donation and since our signature program of egg donation uses frozen embryos, we often have surplus embryos left over from other families who have decided to donate them.