When you’re an intended parent, you will put a lot of thought into the surrogacy process. But, you may not consider what will happen when your surrogacy is complete. If you’re like many intended parents, you will have remaining embryos after your gestational carrier gives birth — and you’ll need to decide what to do with them.
There are generally three options for leftover embryos: to dispose of them, donate them to science, or donate them to another intended parent. Many intended parents choose a fourth “option” — to keep them in long-term storage indefinitely — but, as an intended parent, you will need to decide what to do with your embryos at some point. At American Surrogacy, we encourage our clients to think about this earlier rather than later.
In this article, we’ll talk about one of the most selfless and beautiful choices for your leftover IVF embryos: donating them to another intended parent. Understandably, many people have reservations about this process, so having the right information can help you make the best decision for your family.
Whether you’re seriously considering embryo donation or simply want to learn more, here are some things you should know:
Signs Embryo Donation is Right for You
Donating leftover embryos is not right for everyone — and that’s okay! When you donate an embryo to another couple, you are often giving a very personal gift to a complete stranger. It can be nerve-wracking to consider.
However, there are a few signs that it may be the right choice for you:
1. You want to help someone else become parents.
As an intended parent, you understand the struggle that people like you go through to have a child. If you decide to donate your embryos, you can make someone else’s parenthood journey a little easier. Donated embryos can be used to help an intended mother experience pregnancy, reduce the costs of IVF for those looking into surrogacy, and even help LGBT couples who can’t conceive an embryo on their own.
When you donate your embryos, you give these intended parents a new chance at building their family. The people who choose this path empathize with those in that situation, and they make the selfless choice to give the possibility of a child to those who want it most.
2. You are uncomfortable disposing of your embryos or keeping them in long-term storage.
While frozen embryos are in no way considered viable, some intended parent feel uncomfortable disposing of the promise their embryos could have. Whether or not they view them as “children,” some people don’t believe that discarding their embryos (or donating them to science) is ethical.
On the other hand, keeping them in long-term storage is not a viable option either. Sure, it may delay the decision you have to make, and it can keep your options open if you wish to have more children, but you will eventually need to decide what you wish to do with your embryos. Otherwise, this will be a decision made by your family members when you die.
Donating your embryos can give you control over their use and a sense of purpose that you may not feel otherwise.
3. You are comfortable with being an identified donor.
There’s one thing that you should know before donating your embryos: You are not “giving up your children.” Instead, you are giving the possibility of a child to someone else. If that embryo successfully implants and develops into a fetus, there will be a child with your genetic material out in the world. That’s why embryo donation is also called “embryo adoption.”
For this reason, the people who donate embryos with their genetic material are highly recommended (sometimes even required) to do so on an identified basis. That means, when the child is old enough, the embryo donors can be contacted by their biological son or daughter (or his or her parents) for more information about genetic history, siblings, etc. You will not be responsible for your biological child’s well-being, and you will likely not feel the same connection that a birth parent feels to their child in an adoption situation. However, you will have the responsibility to give your biological child the information they need as they grow up.
Signs Embryo Donation is Not Right for You
If you’re unsure about donating your embryos to someone else, that’s completely normal. You may have a few concerns about the process, which is why learning as much as possible will help you make the best choice for your family.
There are generally a few signs that embryo donation may not be the best route for your family:
1. Your embryos are not high-quality.
This reason goes without saying. If you have struggled to conceive yourself, and you’ve turned to surrogacy and transferred the best quality embryo, your remaining embryos likely weren’t quality enough to be used for your own surrogacy. Therefore, they shouldn’t be donated to another couple if they have a high chance of failure.
If your reproductive endocrinologist determines that your leftover embryos are too low quality for donation to other intended parents, consider donating them to science instead. That way, experts can study your embryos to advance future assisted reproduction techniques.
2. You are uncomfortable with someone else raising a child who is biologically related to you.
If your embryos are created from you and your spouse’s gametes, it may make you uncomfortable to donate a potential biological child to someone else. Even if you choose identified donation, you will not be actively involved in your biological child’s life. For some intended parents, this can be a deal-breaker when it comes to donation. It takes a special kind of person to give a biological child to someone else; not everyone can be an embryo donor or birth parent.
Consider talking to an identified donor bank to learn more about this process to see if your concerns clear up with more information. If they don’t, that’s okay — consider donating your embryos to science, where they will never reach the point of viability.
3. You would rather dispose of your embryos.
Deciding what to do with your leftover embryos is a tough choice. You may not like the uncertainty of long-term storage, and you may be uncomfortable with donating your genetic material and the unknowns that come with doing so. In your case, discarding your embryos may be the best solution.
Remember, choosing to discard your embryos doesn’t mean that you are destroying “children.” It is always up to you to decide whether you are personally comfortable with discarding your embryos, but know that they are not viable and will not develop into fetuses unless implanted in a uterus.
If you are ever unsure as to what to do with your leftover embryos, we encourage you to speak in depth with your reproductive endocrinologist. This may not be a decision that you make overnight, but having the proper information and understanding all of your options will help you to choose the path that is best for your family.