What is Embryo Adoption?


As the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) has become more common, couples who have chosen this method and have successfully added children to their family, find that they are left with the responsibility of determining the destiny of their other frozen embryos. Understandably, this can be a difficult decision as these couples have limited choices.

While science and medicine takes great leaps forward in human reproduction, we must also contend with the decisions and choices that are brought about by our new found advancements. Currently it is estimated that over 500,000 embryos are in cryo-preservation in the United States alone. Couples who choose this method are left with a difficult and emotional decision of what to do with the left over embryos.

One positive choice is that couples may choose to donate their remaining embryos to other infertile couples through embryo donation, thus embryo adoption. Embryo donation offers a positive experience to all involved including the donors, the adoptive parents and allows the embryo to evolve into a human life rather than being destroyed.

Donors only other option is to allow the embryo to be utilized for medical research such as stem cell research, or to allow the embryo to unthaw and be discarded. For many donors destroying an embryo or allowing it to die are not an option due to their ethical, moral and/or religious beliefs, thus they decide to allow the embryo to be adopted.

About 1,000 babies have been born in the U.S. from embryo adoption since it became available 10 years ago, according to Ron Stoddart founder of the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, based in Fullerton, California. With time this number is expected to greatly increase.

The federal government supports, via funding, only one option: adoption to another couple for a possible pregnancy. The alternate option, destroying the embryo is seen with the same ethical perspective as abortion by many who voice their opinion on this controversial topic.

Next week we will share the Legal and Ethical Considerations of Embryo Adoption.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptionsā€™ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.