Traditional adoption is a lifeline for some couples. Personally, it scares the shit out of me.
Keep in mind, that is just my personal opinion. If you are in the process of adoption, or are considering it, by no means do I want to dissuade anyone from that path. There are a lot of kids out there who need/want stable, loving homes, and a lot of would-be parents out there who have a lifetime of love to give. I even have two good friends for whom adoption (one newborn, the other children were 2 years+) worked exceptionally well. Our first – and only – attempt was a disaster (failed newborn adoption; birth mom changed her mind many months in.). We have no desire to traverse that road…that heartache…again. Enter the random search.
I can’t remember exactly what I was looking up at the time (there have been so many things), but in one of the forums I happened upon the term “embryo donation.” True to my ADD brain, I opened a new browser tab, started yet another Google search, and found this CNN video.
A quick rundown: after undergoing the process of IVF, couples are given several options for what to do with any remaining embryos. They can freeze/save them for a future cycle if they have not completed their family yet, donate them to research or destroy them if they have completed their family…or they can donate them to another couple dealing with infertility. The receiving couple would then go through FET (frozen embryo transfer), give birth to, and raise the resulting child(ren) as their own. Adoption, but not quite. Since the embryo changes “hands” prior to a live birth, this process is not legally adoption (even though you might often hear it called such). Rather, the embryos are considered property and fall under the jurisdiction of property law, contract law, and legal agreements. You can read a very general article about the Legal Aspects of Frozen Embryo Adoption at LegalZoom (more detailed questions should, of course, be addressed by someone more well-versed in federal and state law than myself).
Some additional resources for your perusal:
- Wikipedia page on Embryo Donation: Provides a general overview of what embryo donation is, along with a history.
- BabyCenter Embryo Adoption Group: A forum to discuss embryo adoption/donation with others who have been through, or are going through, the process.
- ABC News: Another story about a couple who received donated embryos.
Now that you are armed with a little more information, how do you go about starting the process or learning more in-depth details? There are several options.
- Talk to your current clinic/RE: Some IVF clinics maintain a free waitlist for donated embryos from their patients. When I called my clinic, I was put in touch with the IVF RN (she doubled as the list coordinator). I was asked for any preferences, such as race, etc., and then I simply added my name. The only costs we would incur would be those for the clinic to perform a FET. This approach can entail a waiting period, the length of which depends upon your clinic (how many patients they treat with IVF, how aggressive they are at informing patients about donation as an option, etc.). I was told the typical wait time at my clinic is one year. The costs also depend upon your clinic, as FET fees can vary greatly from one office to another.
- Go through a national agency: One of the most well-known agencies in the U.S. is the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), based in Knoxville, TN. They offer both open (donating and recipient families interact with each other) and anonymous donations/adoptions. There are a couple of things to note. 1 – They have specific criteria that you as a couple must meet. See “Who Can Adopt” under this FAQ for the breakdown. 2 – The cost may be more than at your local clinic; they start at just over $5,000. Check the NEDC fee schedule to compare.
- Go through a religious/Christian agency: The go-to organization under this category is Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and Donation. Snowflakes is run by Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and although not required by law, they handle embryo donation/adoption in the same manner as a traditional adoption. Like NEDC, they have specific requirements for recipient couples. Also like NEDC, they offer open, semi-open, and anonymous donations/adoptions. They are more expensive than NEDC, however, at $8,000 for the base program cost. See their fee schedule for more details.
- Go through the Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine (FIRM): Another agency I saw pop up quite often with regard to both donor egg IVF and embryo donation was FIRM. From what I understand, their embryo donor program is quite extensive and well-known in the southeast. As far as cost, they come in at the cheapest with fees starting at $3,477 (not including a $250 initial phone consult charge). My husband and I were actually going to use FIRM as a secondary/concurrent plan to going on our clinic’s wait list before we learned about the egg donor program at Reprofit. We were told the whole process would take approximately 3 months through FIRM. We would have a phone consult, pay our deposit (don’t quote me, but I think it was in the ballpark of $650), and then the coordinator would send us an “embryo book” that contained profiles for their current frosties. After making our choice and finishing the required testing, we would then set a date for treatment. It would be worth confirming with FIRM if you’re interested in this route, but I remember them saying the process would remain anonymous.
- Go through Reprofit: The clinic I am using for egg donation – Reprofit International, also offers embryo donation (also called double donor FET). At this clinic, however, they do not use remaining embryos from previous patient’s IVF cycles. They create your requested embryos essentially “on demand” from frozen donor eggs/sperm. You can make requests with regard to specific characteristics for both the male and female donors. The cost here is €1180 ($1550 as of this writing) for one embryo, and €1680 ($2206) for two embryos. See their fee schedule for more information. You can also see this Fertility Friends thread concerning embryo donation at Reprofit.
- Check out this Babycenter thread to see more agencies/clinics listed by state.
There are also organizations out there to whom you can pay either a “registration fee,” or a monthly fee in order to view profiles of people wanting to donate their embryos. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend any of these sites. The two that come to mind are Miracles Waiting (you’ll literally be waiting for a long time, since they aren’t very active. One woman paid $150 for access to the site, only to find about 2-3 profiles) and National Registry for Adoption (NRFA; they charge $70/mo to sign up and use their site.). My reasoning behind not recommending pay-to-browse services: If you get to this point, chances are you’ve been through the wringer already with regard to the financial/emotional aspects of infertility. There are plenty of other avenues for attempting/investigating embryo adoption without getting fleeced yet again.
**It should be noted that with several of the options listed above, to include NEDC, FIRM, and Reprofit, costs for travel (airfare/hotel/etc.) may need to be included when making a decision with finances in mind.**
There are many reasons for looking into embryo donation. Whatever your reasons are, and if you’re here looking for answers while on your own journey for a baby, I hope this page has been informative, and can provide a good jumping spot to start your research. I truly wish you all the hope and dust in the world.