Anyone who has opened up about the difficulties of facing infertility has undoubtedly heard from a friend or family member, “have you considered adoption?”
This question is meant to be nice and conversational, but it can be is hard to take it any other way than a suggestion to give up on trying to get pregnant.
Embryo donation is an alternative route to pregnancy, and it is worth consideration for those who have been diagnosed with infertility due to premature menopause or diminished ovarian reserve, as well as those whose ovaries have been previously damaged due to illness, surgery, trauma or treatments such as chemotherapy.
A new route to motherhood
Embryo donation isn’t exactly new (American Society for Reproductive Medicine [ASRM] states it has been in practice for at least 27 years), but it is something that many fertility patients don’t know about when they consider their options.
Receiving donated embryos means that you still get the experience of being pregnant, and the child born to you is your biological child (though not genetic). You are able to have the connection with your child during pregnancy and if you choose to nurse your child, which you would not be able to have if you adopt.
Why it can work for you
Female infertility is rooted in egg quality and quantity. Your ovarian reserve (the number of eggs you have left in your ovaries) drops with age, and unfortunately it drops more quickly for some women than others. We hear a lot about advanced age as a cause or contributor to infertility, but your uterus is not part of this – the uterus generally stays hospitable to pregnancy for many years after your eggs deplete, and therefore you may still be able to get pregnant with another person’s eggs.
An affordable treatment option
Here at the Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine, we offer several treatment options, including anonymous egg donors, who we find and match to you; known egg donors, who are specific women chosen by the patient to provide eggs, often a family member or close friend; and our new option for frozen egg donation, where donated eggs come to us from an egg bank.
These options have proven to be extremely effective, but not all insurance companies cover this treatment. As the patient, you will be financially responsible for the donor’s fertility medications, blood and ultrasound monitoring, and procedure costs for the egg retrieval, on top of your own expenses for embryo fertilization (including some fertility medications) and transfer. Embryo donation recipients must pay a cycle administration fee (which varies by clinic) to receive two viable embryos, and patients are not responsible to reimburse the donors for any costs, which may prove to be a more affordable option for many patients.
How safe is embryo donation?
All of our fertility patients are screened during and prior to their IVF cycles to ensure there will be a healthy embryo to transfer, which includes sexually transmitted disease tests, infectious disease screening, and congenital illness tests. All of the embryos that are stored will have passed this level of scrutiny.
Additionally, ASRM requires the following of embryo donation:
- Advanced medical screening
- Psychological counseling
- Informed consent
- Transfer of rights to embryos from donors to recipients
The fertility center you visit for your embryos typically performs this kind of screening on the first couple who provided the gametes that create the embryos. But the screening process is not as stringent with embryo donors as with egg donors and sperm donors, because there is no guarantee that a couple will create enough embryos to complete their family goals. It is only after they have reached their family goals that they decide to donate their embryos. At that point, any health risks present are disclosed to the patient receiving the embryos, and she/the couple is able to decide how to proceed.
Is embryo donation right for you?
It is up to you to decide and to discuss with your fertility doctor if embryo donation is a viable alternative for you, particularly if you have experienced repeated unsuccessful in vitro fertilization and IUI treatments. It is an especially good alternative for single women trying to conceive but dealing with infertility. Embryo donation also allows you the experience of being pregnant, giving birth and nursing, even if you are unable to get pregnant with your own eggs. Moreover, you are the biological mother of the child you bear with embryo donation, an important consideration when pondering legal ramifications of adoption.
Have you considered embryo donation?