Embryo Adoption: Where to start?

How does this all work?

One in eight couples struggle with infertility. And many times couples who face infertility will end up doing IVF to achieve parenthood. In a nutshell, IVF (in-vitro fertilization)  is the procedure where a mother's eggs are harvested and her partners sperm and her harvested eggs are united in a lab to create embryos. Usually one or two embryos are placed back into the mother's uterus in an embryo transfer with the hopes that one or both will grow into a baby. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they aren't. The remaining embryos that were not used are frozen and stored so that the couple can use them later if they are not successful, or if they want to build their family further. But sometimes they are all done building their family yet they still have frozen embryos left over in storage. For couples who don't wish to donate to science or to destroy their embryos, but instead wish to see their frozen embryos have a chance at life, it's an incredible opportunity for another couple to "adopt" these embryos to grow their family in a way they otherwise couldn't.

Where do I start?

Once you decide to begin researching embryo adoption/donation the next question is "Where do I start?" One of the most challenging aspects of Embryo Adoption/Donation is that currently there is no central place to begin. There is no single place with a compilation of resources, except those that are run by a specific agency. Here is some information that I've learned along the way that hopefully will help you get started.

Embryo Adoption vs Embryo Donation

Let's start with a little terminology. I personally find myself using the term Embryo Adoption to cover most donor embryo situations, because it seems like it's easier for the masses to understand. But you will find that those in the IF community use the terms Embryo Adoption (EA) and Embryo Donation (ED) differently depending on the situation. There is no hard and fast rule here, but here are my personal observations. EA is usually used when you go through an agency and have a home study, or locate embryos and orchestrate your adoption yourself. Legally speaking, there is no such thing as actually 'adopting' an embryo, however the process to transfer ownership is what we refer to to as embryo adoption. EA can be an open, semi-open or closed/anonymous 'adoption'. ED is the term that is usually used when you go through a clinic, and generally ED through a clinic is done anonymously.

Open, semi-open, or anonymous?

I suggest that before you do anything else on your EA/ED journey, you and your partner should research and decide which of these scenarios you are comfortable with: open, semi-open, or closed/anonymous.  Open adoption gives you the ability to know your donor family and have regular contact with them if that is what you both wish. Semi-open may be the ability to give updates to the donor family yearly, on birthdays, etc, but no regular contact. And of course closed/anonymous is no contact at all and you will likely never know who your donors are beyond basic profile information. There are pros and cons to each of these routes. With open or semi-open, you have the option to know the donor couple and have some level of a relationship. Your future children may find a benefit in knowing this piece of their genetic puzzle. However, going this route can take longer and be more expensive than anonymous ED through a clinic. Many clinics with ED programs have long waiting lists, but some do not. It depends on the clinic. Overall, ED and anonymous is the least expensive choice. Once you decide which route you'd like to take, you can begin researching specific options, clinics and agencies. 

Using an agency

If you choose EA through an agency, the most popular ones are Snowflakes, NEDC, Embryos Alive, Children's Connections Inc, and Cedar Park. They all require a home study (Embryos Alive will accept a dossier or a home study). The NEDC requires you to travel to their clinic for the transfer, the others ship the embryos to your clinic. The fees for the home study, shipping, and transfer will vary, but average around $6000-$8000.

Using a clinic's donor embryo program

If you choose ED through an anonymous clinic program, you will first need to find one that offers this service. This can be difficult, but with a bit of work you can find many options. You can start by calling clinics near you and ask f they have a donor embryo program. Be very clear, because many times will might assume you are looking for eggs. Egg donation is obviously very different from embryo donation. Clinics generally do not require a home study, although many require a psychological screening. Don't let this scare you away. These "screenings" are actually useful informational sessions and you will be glad you had one! I know we were! The average wait time through a clinic is about a year and the fees will vary greatly, with most in the $5000 range. Some can be as low as $3000 and others up to $9000. If you are willing to travel, you can sometimes find programs with lower fees even with travel costs included.

Finding embryos on your own

Another option is to find embryos yourself. This is what we did for both of our adoptions. Once you've found some, you can either travel to the donor's clinic where they are stored or have them shipped to you. Some couples who seek to adopt embryos on their own spread the word that they are looking for embryos on blogs, forums and other social media sites. Miracles Waiting is also a great site to find a match. It is a classifieds ad style site where donors and recipients can make contact with one another and discuss the terms of an adoption. On Miracles Waiting, recipients pay a one time nominal fee to join. Another matching site is NRFA - National Registry for Adoption. Recipient pricing is between $20-$39 a month and is free for donors. And another option for self matching is through the forums on Parents via Egg Donation.  By choosing this route you may save money over using an agency yet still have an open, or semi-open relationship with the donors. However, your wait time could be be a very long time, OR a very short time, depending on how long it takes for a match to be made. And you will have to coordinate all of the logistics yourself (legal paperwork, shipping, etc). This can have it's challenges, but also it's rewards and is not nearly as difficult as many may think. The two big pieces to coordinating this are finding an attorney and working closely with your third-party donation coordinator at your clinic to take care of the rest of the steps (embryo screening, shipping, etc.)  You're not alone because your clinic should hold your hand through what steps need to happen.

If you choose to adopt embryos by locating them yourself and you are looking for an attorney to draw up your contract, I used Adam Aseron here in Austin, TX and highly recommend him. He was exceptional to work with on both of our embryo adoptions and seems to enjoy playing a part in this exciting process for infertile couples. He can help people throughout the US, and is not limited to Texas. In fact, even though he is local to us, he did all of the work for us remotely through email. He was very responsive to email and gave a quick turnaround for all of our requested contract changes. He charged us a flat fee to draw up a contract rather than charge by the hour which was very cost effective. Here is his contact information:

Adam Aseron
Website: Giles, Sayers & Aseron PLLC
Phone: 512.582.7464

Double-donor embryos

And lastly, there is the option of double-donor embryos. California Conceptions uses anonymous donor sperm and anonymous donor eggs and their success rates are some of the highest out there. The offer up to three cycles for around $12,000. The downside is that if you get pregnant the first try, you've now spent much more than you might have if you had gone another route and was successful your first try. But you are pregnant, so that matters very little if you can afford it! The upside is that if you don't get pregnant you get another try (or two) for that price which is lower than you would pay for three tries at most other clinics. They do not offer a single transfer price though - it's package only. I am not very familiar with this program so please contact them for more information if you are interested.

Are you considering donating embryos?

And speaking to the other side of the table, if you are considering donating your embryos, I thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of all of the hopeful recipient couples out there! Currently, there is a huge donor embryo shortage - despite what you may have read online or elsewhere. Many times you may read there are "over 600,000 embryos frozen in time just waiting to be adopted" when this is simply not true. It may be true that there are hundreds of thousands of embryos frozen in labs, but most of them are property of their genetic parents who have intentions of using them at a later date. If you currently have embryos remaining after the completion of building your family, and don't know what to do with them, thank you for considering donation. You can use the above information to help guide you. If I could make a recommendation, please be sure that you and your partner are ready to donate your embryos before actually involving a recipient. It will spare their feelings if you decide you are not ready yet, and it's only fair. And if you are in contact with a recipient only to find that it is not a good match, please be honest with them and let you know it won't work out instead of disappearing. This causes so much heartache to the recipient and will leave them to wonder "why?" Being honest is the kindest thing to do, even if it's difficult.

Please know that if your clinic tells you that you "aren't allowed to donate" or "it can't be done" they are incorrect. These embryos belong to you and YOU get to decide what happens to them, not your clinic. Many times you will be told you have only two options available: Destroy or donate to science. When in reality, there is a third option. And the most tragic part about this is that many couples are not aware of this option and end up destroying or donating to science when they otherwise wouldn't have. The bottom line is that if you wish for your embryos to have a chance at life, you can make this happen. There are so many infertile couples who would do anything to have a chance at parenthood. And you hold the key to not only impact the lives of your embryos, but give the most selfless gift of all to loving recipient couple!

Connect with others

If you're looking for an online place to connect with other people who are at various stages of the EA/ED process, there is a forum on Baby Center called Embryo Adoption.

I have also started a private embryo donation/adoption Facebook group as a support for women who are anywhere in the EA/ED process. This could be looking for embryos, cycling, or parenting a child who is the result of a donor/adopted embryo. Donors are welcome in this group! But there is also a separate group for donors only, or those considering donating their. It is separate due to the unique issues donors may face and the unique support they can provide one another. Both groups are 100% private and considered "secret" on Facebook, so your other FB friends will not know you are a part of them or see you are posting to them Being a member of these groups will not "out" you to your other FB friends.

If you are interested in being added to either group, please send me an email at wishingonasnowflake@gmail.com

(Thank you to Jess @ A Greater Yes for posting this info on your blog and letting me tweak it for my site!)


  1. Hi Liz, Thanks for all the great info. I found a site that also lists some ways that you can recieve embryos and has links to programs. It's http://www.embryoadoption.org/adopters/receiving_embryos..cfm
    Wishing you all the best.

  2. I freaking love you right now. Haha!

  3. I am so excited to have found this. It gives me s small Ray of hope.

  4. Liz - On behalf of Parents Via Egg Donation / Embryo Donation we are just so happy for you and your family - your little girl is just amazing. We are so proud of you and your family that you've gone public with your story and it makes my heart swell to learn that the media is embracing this as a good thing:)

    Because you're outreach is going to be so vast our organization www.pved.org would like to extend and invitation to any intended parent or someone who is already a parent via third party (egg donation or embryo donation. We help over 9000 intended parents and parents via this process a year with their journey:)

    Again we are just so happy for you and your family.

    Warmest regards - Marna and the entire PVED community!