Q&A

What is Embryo Adoption or Donation?

Photo of baby that was adopted as a frozen embryo with NRFA
National Registry for Adoption - Adoption Simplified

Embryo adoption is a relatively new process in which couples who have completed their families through the use of in-vitro fertilization and have remaining frozen embryos in storage, can give the embryos a chance at life with an adoptive couple.  The intent is that the embryos will be transferred into the womb of the adoptive mother so her family may experience the pregnancy and birth of that child.

Embryo donation and adoption exist today because of an assisted reproductive technology procedure called in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The world’s first child conceived in vitro was born in Great Britain in 1978, and six years later, a technique was developed for freezing embryos. By freezing unused embryos, couples could have additional transfers at a later time without having to harvest and fertilize additional eggs. As IVF procedure success rates continued to increase, so did the number of frozen embryos.

The first embryo adoption was facilitated by Nightlife Christian Adoption in 1998. Night-life coined the term “Snowflake” in reference to embryos because they are all frozen, unique, and created by God. Read more about the very first Snowflake baby here.

As of 2012, there were approximately 600,000 frozen embryos in storage facilities across the country. When the information was released, it made people question, “What will happen with all these embryos?” There are only a few options for these embryos, and the only life-honoring choice is embryo donation/adoption. Embryos can destroyed, be donated to research (to later be destroyed), or they can continue to be frozen indefinitely while families wrestle with their fate.

Let’s revisit the status of those 600,000 embryos who are being cryogenically preserved in storage facilities. Of these 600,000 embryos, reports state that approximately 87% are earmarked for couples that are still building their families. But as to the remaining 13%, their fate is unknown. Assuming a frozen transfer success rate of only 30%, these 138,000 embryos could result in the birth of more than 41,400 children.