Embryo donation is an option that is open to our IVF patients who have embryos that they do not wish to use themselves. They can “donate” or make their embryos available to other couples who are attempting pregnancy. The “recipient” couple uses the donated embryos instead of their own to attempt pregnancy. Embryo donation can be accomplished in two ways :
- At the time of the original IVF cycle
- At a later time using embryos previously frozen for a couple’s own use
Embryo Donation Protocol
The treatment used in embryo donation is the same that is used for women receiving their own frozen embryos. The uterus is prepared using hormones to mimic the natural menstrual cycle. These are the same hormones produced by the ovaries: estrogen and progesterone. One additional medication is also frequently used: Lupride/Lupron. Lupride/Lupron is used to suppress the pituitary gland to prevent the patient from ovulating during the preparation of the uterus. Once the pituitary gland is suppressed, the estrogen begins. Estrogen thickens the uterine lining. Estrogen can be given as pills. The uterine lining is monitored with transvaginal ultrasound. Once the thickness of the lining reaches 7 mm or more, progesterone supplementation can begin. Progesterone can be given as a vaginal suppository or gel or as injections. Oral progesterone is not recommended. The number of days progesterone is given before the transfer must match the stage of embryo development. This “synchronization” is very important in embryo donation cycles.
Unlike other types of “transplants” the recipient of donor embryos does NOT need to take medications to suppress her immune system.
Once the uterine lining has been prepared, the frozen embryos are thawed and placed into the uterus. The embryo donation recipient continues to take estrogen and progesterone until a pregnancy test is done. If she is pregnant, she continues both the estrogen and progesterone until the 11th week of pregnancy.
Types of Embryo Donation
There are two types of embryo donation:
- Frozen Embryo Donation: Frozen embryo donation involves using frozen embryos donated by another infertile couple. Many couples go through IVF treatments in order to get pregnant. Many couples choose to donate their remaining frozen embryos to couples who are having trouble conceiving.
- Embryo Creation: Embryo creation involves using a donated egg and a donated sperm to create an embryo. This embryo will not be biologically related to you. The resulting embryo is then transferred into your uterus.
Success Rates of Embryo Donation
Typical success rates with embryo donation range from about 16% to 20% per transfer. However, success rates will fluctuate depending upon the quality of the embryo that is being used.
Who can get benefit from Embryo Donation?
Embryo donation can be of great benefit to couples facing specific fertility problems. Embryo donation is commonly used when both partners are experiencing fertility issues. Embryo donation is often pursued by couples experiencing problems with:
- egg production and ovulation
- sperm count and production
For whom Embryo Donation is helpful?
- can’t afford or can’t pursue adoption
- can’t afford more expensive fertility treatments
- have been unsuccessful with other forms of ART
- are at high risk of passing down genetic disorders but cannot pursue PGD
Why Pursue Embryo Donation?
There are a number of benefits to turning to embryo donation in order to conceive:
- Embryo donation is usually less expensive than other ART procedures, like IVF.
- It is less complicated and expensive than adoption.
- Embryo donation can help you to become pregnant and give birth within one year.
Drawbacks to Embryo Donation
Embryo donation should never be undertaken lightly as there are some drawbacks associated with the procedure. Primarily, success rates of embryo donation tend to be lower than those associated with egg donation. This is because embryos are:
- frozen for long periods of time before they are donated (embryo freezing compromises the quality of the embryo)
- thawed before being transferred (not all embryos will survive this thawing process)
- taken from infertile couples (they may not be of the best quality)
How Do You Find an Embryo Donor?
Embryo donation is typically offered by fertility clinics and agencies specializing in the field. If you wish to find an embryo donor, you must go to one of these clinics or agencies and register with them. There is usually a registration fee.
You will meet with a counsellor who will help you to find a suitable donor from their list of registered donors. Embryos can be matched to your religious, cultural, or spiritual background. Embryo donation is normally anonymous, although it is sometimes performed on an open basis. Typically, you will be asked to settle on a few donors so that you have at least six possible embryos to use during transfer.
Is Embryo Donation Safe?
Embryo donation is an extremely safe procedure, with all embryos undergoing proper diagnostic screening prior to transfer. All donated embryos are frozen and quarantined for six months. They are also tested for infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. Genetic testing is also performed on all donated embryos to reduce the chances of genetic diseases or chromosomal defects.
Legal Aspects of Embryo Donation
You may be worried about the legal aspects of embryo donation. It is important to check the laws in your state governing embryo donation. You want to make sure that your embryo donors have no legal rights to the embryo once it has been donated, or to any resulting children. Typically, embryo donors waive parental rights before a transfer takes place. You and your partner become the legal parents of the embryo once it is implanted.
Embryo donation is a form of third party reproduction. In vitro fertilisation, or IVF, often results in a number of frozen, unused embryos after the woman for whom they were originally created has successfully carried one or more pregnancies to term. In embryo donation, these extra embryos are given to other couples or women for transfer with the goal of producing a successful pregnancy. The resulting child is considered the child of the woman who carries it and gives birth, and not the child of the donor, the same as occurs with egg donation or sperm donation.
Typically, genetic parents donate the eggs to a fertility clinic or embryo bank where they are cryogenically preserved until a carrier is found for them. Typically the process of matching the embryo(s) with the prospective parents is conducted by the agency itself, at which time the clinic transfers ownership of the embryos to the prospective parents.
We at Merryland Women’s Hospital are regularly and successfully doing embryo donation IVF cycles with very high success rates.