Thousands of Minnesota couples experiencing fertility challenges have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) (fertilization of an egg outside the womb) to have children. IVF often produces more embryos than couples can use. Surplus embryos can be stored for future use, donated for scientific research, or donated to others with fertility issues.
Receiving a donation of unused embryos created by others can be a less costly option for having children through assisted reproduction. One concern an parent considering this option may be the viability of frozen embryos to create a successful pregnancy.
On Oct. 31, an Oregon couple, Philip and Rachel Ridgeway, welcomed their twin son and daughter from donated embryos frozen in 1992. The National Embryo Donation Center says newborns Timothy and Lydia were born from what are likely the longest-frozen embryos resulting in a live birth.
Frozen embryos can be stored “indefinitely”
Fertility experts say when it comes to the viability of frozen embryos, it’s not about how long they’re frozen but rather the age of the woman donating the egg. Embryos are kept in frozen in nitrogen at roughly minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, all biological processes slow to a crawl. Doctors say it typically doesn’t matter whether embryos are frozen for a week, a month, or several years. Statistics show about an 80% survival rate for thawed frozen embryos.
Understanding the difference between donation and adoption
Couples or individuals considering embryo donation should consider the legal issues involved and avoid confusion over the terms commonly used. Some describe the process as an “embryo adoption,” used mostly by faith-based organizations. However, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) says applying the term “adoption” to embryos is misleading and inaccurate.
Fertility experts say adoption applies to living children and is a legal process where a parent-child relationship is formed where one did not exist. Embryo donation is a medical procedure where embryos are transferred to help others build families. As with other tissue donations, embryos must be screened and meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines to be eligible for donation.
The ASRM says couples may be discouraged from pursuing embryo donation or face additional burdens if they view the process as an adoption. There are often unnecessary legal fees incurred before a viable pregnancy occurs and in situations in which a viable pregnancy never occurs. Whether you are considering donated embryos to build your family or donating unused embryos to help others, it’s advisable to consult an experienced attorney specializing in assisted reproduction law. You can achieve peace of mind by understanding the legal issues, allowing you to focus on the joy of parenthood or helping others achieve their dreams.