Embryo donation is the process of giving the embryos left after one couple’s in vitro fertilization to another person or couple for implantation.
The embryos are usually donated after the couple for whom they were initially created has conceived and carried a pregnancy to term.
The decision to donate or destroy the embryos remains with the same couple.
Process of Embryo donation
Usually during an IVF cycle, all the embryos formed are not transferred to the uterus. Only 3-4 embryos will be transferred and the rest are frozen for future use.
If the couple for whom those embryos were created conceives in the first cycle, they may choose to keep those extra embryos frozen for future use, donate them to a needy person, or ask to destroy them.
In cases of IVF with donor eggs and donor sperm, the embryos may be shared by more than one couple because there is no genetic connection to either of them.
In embryo donation:
- Your endometrium will be prepared with controlled doses of estrogen for around 14 days, after which progesterone will be intoduced
- Frozen embryos are thawed and prepared
- Embryo transfer will be done on around day 17 of the cycle. A small catheter will be passed through the vagina and cervix into the uterus and the embryos will be placed there.
Tests for the recipient lady
Before the donor embryos are transferred to your uterus, some tests will be performed.
You should be prepared for prenatal medical screening and provide complete medical and obstetrical history, to help the doctor understand the chances of success.
- Uterine evaluation for females can be done with Sonohysterogram, hysteroscopy or hysterosalpingogram
- To check for any infectious diseases, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), etc. the doctor may recommend STI screening.
- Age, general health, and any systemic diseases will also be considered before embryo transplant.
Risks and Complications
The process of embryo transfer is considered very safe, and there are hardly any complications, albeit there is a very small risk of infection, but if you go to a good, trusted facility, you should have nothing to worry about.
Pregnancy test will be done after 15 days. If it is negative, the medications will be stopped and your normal periods will resume.
If you do get pregnant, you will be given more progesterone to support your pregnancy for several weeks. Hereon, you will have the same risks or complications as any other woman of your age who conceived naturally.
There is no known negative effect of freezing and thawing the embryos; infact, some doctors report better success rates with frozen embryos because it gives them a better control of your uterine lining and they can transfer them under the most conducive of conditions.
Cost of donor embryo implant procedure
If you decide to have donor embryos implanted in your uterus, it will be almost half the cost of IVF.
In India, the cost of donor embryos is around $1,200.
Questions to ask before getting donated embryos
- How old was the female donor and how was the quality of her eggs at the time of embryo creation?
- Were the embryos good when they were frozen?
- How many couples have conceived from embryos in this batch?
- What was the live birth per embryo transfer rate at your clinic at the time the embryos were frozen?
- How long have these embryos been frozen? You might want a more recent batch (say in the past ten years) because the freezing and thawing protocols have significantly improved in the past decade.
Will it be my child?
Yes, legally it will be (in most parts of the world). Donated embryo means you will not have any genetic connection to the child but the birth certificate will bear the names of the intending parents as the official guardians.
Can I meet the genetic parents of the donated embryo?
In India, only anonymous embryo donation is offered to avoid any legal and emotional conflicts later in life.
The IVF clinic uses the embryos for another couple only after the original couple has consented to it and they can closely match the physical characteristics of the intending parents with those of the embryos they have frozen.