Embryo donation is an exciting option in modern infertility treatment offered at our Sandy, Utah clinic.
While most patients would initially prefer to have children using their own eggs or sperm, there are sometimes factors beyond their control that make this impossible. Embryo donation is a great option for these patients.
Donor Embryo Overview
Before donor embryo programs were available, traditional adoption was the only option for patients. Donor embryo allows the patient to experience the wonder and joy of pregnancy, labor and delivery while carefully controlling the pregnancy environment (taking prenatal vitamins, good diet, avoiding alcohol, tobacco or unnecessary drugs).
A frequently asked questions is, “Where do donor embryos come from?” Donated embryos can come from a variety of sources. Most frequently other infertile women who have undergone IVF treatment and achieved the family of their desired size chose to donate embryos rather than have them discarded.
Donors must provide extensive information regarding their personal and family medical history and genetic information. They must also provide updated infectious disease testing such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If they have not been tested previously, they are asked to undergo testing for ethnic specific genetic risks such as cystic fibrosis for Caucasians and sickle cell disease for African Americans. Regretfully, some embryos need to be eliminated from donation due to infectious or significant genetic disease risk issues.
Patients are not paid for their embryos but some may receive compensation for their time and efforts in completing the required screening process. Patients who donate tend to want to help others who are going through the same often frustrating process that they went through.
Donated embryos are frozen at the time of the initial fresh IVF cycle. They can be stored for several months or even several years, depending on the circumstances. Most programs encourage patients not to donate extra embryos until after their baby has been delivered and is doing well. Many prefer to wait until the child is 1-2 years old before making the decision to donate. Patients usually incur storage charges during this time.
Pregnancy rates using donated embryos are highly dependent on the age (at the time of the egg retrieval) of the woman who donated the eggs, the quality of the donated embryos, and the number of embryos that the recipient is willing to transfer. In general, the younger the age of the donating woman and the higher the quality of the embryos based on embryology scoring systems, the higher the pregnancy rate.
Frequently, patients choose to transfer between 2 and 3 thawed donated embryos. Typically, pregnancy implantation rates between 5-15% per embryo transferred or 30% per embryo transfer can be expected.
Finding Donated Embryos
Once the decision is made to use donated embryos, the first step is to find embryos acceptable to the prospective parents. Like many other infertility centers, the Reproductive Care Center has a list of currently available donated embryos. We encourage patients to also contact other agencies to determine if they have embryos that could be used as most programs have a waiting list.
Donor Embryo Steps
Step 1: Consultation
If new to Reproductive Care Center, patients will need to have an initial patient consultation with a physician. This is the patient’s opportunity to review their medical history with the doctor and to determine if they are medically a good candidate for the donor embryo program. Established patients will need to schedule a follow up with their doctor to discuss embryo adoption. Patients also need to have a consultation with a staff member from the billing department to discuss financing the medical and screening aspects of their donor embryo cycle.
Step 2: Screening
The recipient will need to complete infectious disease testing and undergo and pass a psychological screen. Once complete, the patient will be given a list of available embryos and will be given two weeks to decide on a primary and secondary donor.
Step 3: Matching
The Donor Embryo Coordinator will assist you in being matched with donated embryos. After choosing donors, you will meet with your doctor to determine a thaw plan and to complete updated testing that may be needed.
Step 4: Cycle Coordination
Once matched with donated embryos, a calendar will be created and given to the recipient. The recipient woman will take medications to suppress her ovaries and grow her uterine lining. When ready, the embryos will be thawed and transferred into the recipient woman’s uterus. Two weeks later the women will have a blood draw pregnancy test.
Donor Embryo FAQs
Patients frequently ask the following:
Why embryo donation?
Embryo donation is chosen for reasons based on individual circumstances. Some patients have tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant through other fertility treatments. In some women, the ovaries are incapable of producing a fertile egg and others are uncomfortable with risks associated with an IVF cycle. Embryo adoption and traditional adoption are options for these women.The benefits to choosing a donor embryo include control over the prenatal care of the baby and the intended mother being able to experience pregnancy, childbirth and nursing a baby.
What does a donor embryo cycle entail?
An embryo donation cycle is very similar to a frozen embryo transfer. The recipient woman will be placed on medications to suppress her ovaries (typically oral contraceptive pills and Lupron). Then she will take an oral Estrogen for approximately two weeks to grow her uterine lining to prepare for the transfer of the embryos into her uterus.
During the time that she is taking the Estrogen she will attend monitoring appointments, so the fertility specialist can monitor the progress of her uterine lining thickness and hormone levels. When the lining is ready, the woman will begin progesterone and continue estrogen.
The embryos will be thawed and then transferred. An entire cycle takes approximately six weeks. The woman will continue both progesterone and estrogen until two weeks after the embryo transfer at which time a blood draw pregnancy test will be done. If positive, the woman will continue Progesterone and Estrogen until 10 weeks gestation.
What is the cost of a donor embryo cycle?
Donor embryo cycle costs are less expensive than IVF or donor egg. One reason that fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries are not needed. Check with our billing office for current prices.
How many embryos will be available to the recipient for transfer?
The number of embryos available to transfer will be based on the ARSM guidelines and the donor woman’s age at the time the embryos were created.
Why do patients decide to donate their embryos to others?
Patients who have completed their family or are incapable of continuing to pay their storage fees have a variety of embryo disposition options (1) discard their embryos, (2) donate their embryos to research, training, and quality control (3) donate their embryos to other patients to achieve a pregnancy.
Some women are uncomfortable with the idea of discarding their embryos and/or donating their embryos to research. They might feel their family is complete they would still like their embryos to have a chance at life, so they see embryo donation as the best option. Many donors simply want to help other patients navigate their fertility journey to having a child in the only way they can.
What process does the RCC use to screen donated embryos?
The donating patient is asked to complete a screening process that includes:
- Medical and Genetic History (three generations)
- Updated infectious disease screening and genetic testing
Due to changes in FDA guidelines, embryos created prior to May 25, 2005 may not have completed or updated testing and/or a genetic report compared to embryos donated after that date.
What selection process does Reproductive Care Center use to screen donor embryo recipients?
Patients who donate their additional embryos to the embryo donation program at RCC, place their trust in the Reproductive Care Center to match their embryos with patients who will provide loving care for their embryo(s) should a pregnancy be achieved. RCC takes this trust very seriously and has minimum requirements that recipient patients must meet:
- Recipient woman must be 45 years old or younger
- Recipients must undergo and pass a psychological screen
- Recipients must complete an infectious disease screening
After all screening has been completed; the recipient may proceed with a cycle.
What does a recipient do once they find the donor they would like to use for their donor embryo cycle?
When recipients find a profile that meets their personal preferences they contact the Donor Embryo Coordinator to begin coordinating their cycle. The recipient pays a deposit to hold that donor (this fee will be applied towards the overall base Donor Embryo cycle fee).
The Donor Embryo Coordinator will assist the recipient with every step of the process in order to ensure that their cycle goes as smoothly as possible.
What psychological aspects do patients need to be aware of regarding embryo adoption?
Choosing embryo adoption as a means to parenthood is a personal decision. While it is a great option for some, it is not the right option for all patients. Various things to consider are: feelings regarding no genetic link to the child, attachment issues, issues of disclosure (who to tell, who not to tell, when and how to tell the child), financial considerations (all the costs associated with the pre-screening, the cycle, medications and additional cycles if a pregnancy is not achieved), possibility of a failed cycle(s), possibility of a pregnancy with multiples, among others.
For these reasons, patients are required to have a psychological screen to make sure they are emotionally prepared to handle all the aspects associated with donor embryo adoption.