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What are Embryo Donation and Adoption?

Embryo donation is where a couple with leftover frozen embryos donates them to another couple or organization with the expectation that they will be used to achieve a pregnancy.  Depending on the organization, some genetic, medical or other information may be requested from the donating couple. 

Embryo adoption is the process whereby a couple “adopts” these embryos with the intention of thawing them and transferring them into the adopting female’s uterus.  Unfortunately, since the government does not officially recognize embryos as lives, the adoption is considered a “transfer of property” and is handled under contract law as opposed to adoption law.  Although there is no federal mandate, a contract is required, signed by both the donating and adopting couple, transferring their rights to the embryos.  The adoptive parents are recognized by the state as the child’s legal parents, with their names on the birth certificate and official recognition as “birth parents.”

Adoption processes vary depending on the organization.  Donations and adoptions through fertility clinics and medical practices are typically done anonymously; donors and recipients never meet or have contact.  Adoptive agencies (such as Bethany Christian Services, NEDC and Nightlight Adoption Agency) treat embryo adoption like a traditional adoption complete with a home assessment, counseling, post-baby visits and work as a liaison between the two couples. These adoptions may be as open or closed as the families involved with them wish. Adopting couples, as in a traditional adoption, create a profile for the donating couples to review when making their decision.

For more information about embryo donation and adoption, please visit CEDA (Cryopreserved Embryo Donation Awareness Education) at