Embryo adoption or “snowflake adoption” is a unique kind of adoption. When couples go through IVF multiple embryos are created. Most of the time they aren’t all used, so they can be frozen and stored for later use. Storage fees vary, but can cost up to $1,000 a year. Once couples feel their family is complete they have a few different options they can consider:
- Keep storing the embryos and paying the storage fees.
- Thaw the embryos and let them die.
- Donate for scientific research.
- Donate the embryos for adoption.
This is how embryo adoption becomes a possibility.
What is the process of embryo adoption?
When an embryo is donated it becomes available for adoption. The donating couple doesn’t receive any money for their donation. It is a self-less act to help another couple start their family. Once the embryos have been legally donated and transferred the genetic parents don’t have any rights to the embryos or any potential children.
The first step for an adoptive couple is to find some kind of matching service. This can be through an agency, infertility clinic, or online program. This organization will provide you with embryo matching opportunities. Finding a match privately is also an option, through a family member or friend.
Once an adoptive couple is matched with an embryo, both couples go through a health screening and a variety of tests to see if there are any diseases that could easily be transmitted. This ensures a higher success rate of the embryo surviving and having a healthy development.
The embryos are then transferred to your current location. A contract is signed, giving the adoptive couple legal rights to be able to use the embryos.
As mentioned before, doctors will ensure that the adoptive mother is physically ready for the procedure, with the best possible chance for a pregnancy. Any medications or vitamins needed to help the process, (like prenatal vitamins, progesterone, estrogen, antibiotics, etc.), will be taken for “X” amount of time. This time frame will be determined with your doctor.
The embryos are then thawed and the procedure is done with best wishes for a successful implantation!
Similar to other kinds of adoption the donating and adopting couple can choose whether to have an open or closed adoption. An open adoption means the families keep in contact with each other. Where a closed adoption is usually an anonymous donation and the families never meet.
What is the cost of embryo adoption?
There are a variety of fees that go along with embryo adoption. These fees depend on which infertility clinic, or adoption agency you choose to go through. It is considered one of the least expensive adoption routes, with averages costs ranging from $4,000-$15,000. The average cost of an IVF cycle is around $12,000.
Here is an example of some of the fees you could possibly expect:
- Home study
- Matching service or profile
- Agency fees-application, social worker, support services, financial counseling, etc.
- Health screening tests, medications, appointments & medical fees
- Embryo transfer costs
- Legal contract fees
- Any necessary travel expenses
What are the success rates?
Embryo adoption started sometime in the mid 1980’s. An average of 35-45% of embryo adoptions have led to a successful live birth. Which is slightly higher than IVF success rates.
Of course there are varying factors to having a successful transfer and pregnancy. These include:
- Age of embryo. The younger the embryo is, the higher the success rate.
- The egg donor’s age also plays a role. Once again, the younger the better.
- Quality of the embryo and what development stage it is in.
- The number of embryos being transferred.
There is also a chance that the embryo won’t survive the thawing process. According to embryoadoption.org the survival success rate is between 50-75%.
There are over 1,000,000 frozen embryos in storage in the United States. There are always risks associated with any kind of adoption route or infertility treatments. But this expanding option provides a way for couples struggling with infertility to start a family. It is a unique adoption route that gives the full experience of pregnancy and giving birth.