Embryo Donation and Embryo Adoption are similar concepts, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. Some argue that the term “Adoption” should only be applied to children once they are born, while others feel it is appropriate to honor the personhood of these pre-born children with the term “Adoption”. Regardless, both Embryo Donation and Adoption refer to the giving and receiving of fertilized eggs (embryos) that are created during an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle.
The differentiation between terms is most clearly seen in the relationship between the embryo donor and recipient. An Anonymous or Closed Adoption requires a one-time “Embryo Donation” from the genetic family to the recipient family; however, it would not be inappropriate for the receiving family to view it as an “adoption” and refer to it as such. As Open and Semi-Open Adoptions require an on-going relationship between the two families, this is often referred to as an “Embryo Adoption.”
During the process of IVF, more embryos may be created than the family intends to use. Once the individuals involved have determined that they will not use the additional embryos themselves, they are faced with the challenge of what to do with them. Their options, depending on their state of residence and the policies of the clinic used, are to:
- Continue to maintain them in storage indefinitely
- Thaw and don’t use (or transfer at an inopportune time to make it impossible to result in pregnancy)
- Donate them to scientific research
- Donate them to someone else who wants to conceive (embryo donation/adoption)
Donating these remaining embryos can provide the opportunity to assist others who want to conceive. Donating available embryos can give someone else the chance to start or add to their own family.