Are donor embryos the right choice for you?


Donor embryos are created by people who, like you, had difficulty conceiving naturally. Using in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the embryos were grown in a lab and then frozen for the future. Their owners decided not to use them, so they are now available for donation to help other people become parents.  

Donor embryos are a good choice for many of the same people considering donor eggs or sperm, including those who:

  • Have experienced repeated, unexplained infertility treatment failures 
  • Have suffered multiple pregnancy losses for reasons other than implantation 
  • Want to prevent transmission of genetic diseases 
  • Have absent or non-functioning ovaries or testicles 
  • Identify as LGBTQ
  • Wish to use a surrogate to achieve parenthood 

Some couples prefer embryo donation over egg or sperm donation to avoid having only one parent with a genetic connection to their child. Embryo donation can also be less expensive than egg donation and eliminates steps in the process because the embryo is already created.

Did you know

In 2020, 47% of transferred frozen donor embryos resulted in a live birth*

*Data from the SART 2020 Preliminary National Summary Report, accessed July 13, 2022.

Donor embryo cycle by the numbers
Note: Treatment cycles can be affected by many variables. The numbers above represent ranges and may not reflect your experience. Please discuss your personal treatment protocol with your healthcare provider.

Embryo donation options

Currently there are two kinds of embryo donation available:

  • Anonymous donation
    In this type of donation, there will be no contact between you and the donors of the embryo. Your preferences for physical characteristics (like height, hair color, and eye color) and ethnicity will be part of the selection process.
  • Known donation
    Known donors may want to know details about you and whether a pregnancy was successful, and may want updates on the child. Remember, similar to adoption, your child from embryo donation may have siblings living with another family. 

No matter which option you choose, pretreatment counseling will be an important part of the process. A trained professional can guide you through the many emotions you may experience, including grief over not having your own genetic child, anxiety over a failed pregnancy, and what to tell your future child and extended family.

How an embryo donor cycle works

STEP 1: Testing & assessments

The embryo recipient undergoes testing to ensure she can physically manage pregnancy, including blood work and evaluation of the uterus to check for problems that could impact embryo implantation.

STEP 2: Hormonal therapy

The embryo recipient starts hormonal therapy to create the proper uterine environment for the embryo to successfully implant and grow. She may begin with birth control to suppress her menstrual cycle; following this, her uterine lining is prepared with a course of estrogen and later progesterone, for about 15 days.

STEP 3: Embryo transfer

Frozen embryo transfer is typically done around day 15 of the cycle. It is a simple procedure with few complications and does not require anesthesia.

The number of embryos transferred will depend on quality and cell stage of the embryos and the age of the woman at the time the embryos were created. A younger donor usually means fewer embryos implanted, but your feelings about multiple births are also considered.

STEP 4: Two-week wait

After transfer comes a 9 to 12 day waiting period before a pregnancy test can be taken, known as the “two-week wait.” This can be a difficult time, filled with hope and anxiety. Building a support network can help you during this time.

STEP 5: Pregnancy testing and care

If you get the joyous news of a positive pregnancy test, hormone therapy is continued for the pregnant woman until around the 10th week of pregnancy.

According to the SART National Report, in 2019, 43.5% of women who received a donor embryo had a baby.

Many factors can affect this number, including the freezing method, the age of the woman who donated the egg, and the quality of the embryos. Techniques have improved, so embryos frozen in the last ten years may have increased success rates.

Studies show using frozen embryos does not affect the growth or health of your child in the future.

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