What are the options for my created embryos? This article was written by Dr. Vicken Sahakian from Pacific Fertility Center andCircle Surrogacy. It was originally published in 2019 and has been updated in 2023.
The In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process can be emotional and complicated, not to mention one that takes much longer than hopeful intended parents desire. When you begin the IVF process, there is planning to be done in order to best understand the choices you’ll have on your journey.
IVF involves the creation of embryos using eggs and sperm in a medical facility. Some patients create embryos to be transferred to an intended mother to carry the baby. For patients who are unable to carry a baby, they may use a gestational carrier and transfer to a surrogate.
Before you even begin this process, however, there are considerations and questions, and as a patient, you need to understand your options.
What happens when these embryos are created?
When embryos are created they can either be transferred fresh, or frozen to be used at a later date.
Will my embryos be used as fresh or frozen embryos?
While fresh embryos can be transferred, it ultimately depends on the patient and the doctor. Today, it is more common to use frozen embryos.
In recent years, advances in freezing technology has enabled us to freeze embryos and thaw them without damaging them. This has changed the way we practice. Today, almost invariably, embryos are created in advance and frozen, to be used later. When frozen, they do not deteriorate with time. As a matter of fact, we have babies born from embryos frozen for over two decades.
Should I test my embryos?
Patients will need to determine if they’d like to genetically test their embryos. Advances in genetic testing now gives patients the option to genetically test by biopsying small amounts of genetic material for Preimplantation Genetic Testing BEFORE freezing.
By testing their embryos prior to freezing them, the patient now has valuable information about the embryos they have frozen, and the odds of success with them.
What happens leading up to an embryo transfer?
Once the decision is made to transfer an embryo, the intended mother or gestational carrier will go through a frozen embryo cycle and an embryo is implanted in her uterus after thawing it. Shortly thereafter (10 days or so) the patient will receive confirmation about the outcome of the transfer. Hopefully, nine short months later a baby will arrive!
What do I do with my remaining embryos?
In many cases, after a transfer, you may have many more embryos still frozen in storage. You’ll most likely keep them for two reasons:
- Keep your embryos frozen for a sibling journey. Parents who wish to grow their family again can use the frozen ones at a later date. There are fees associated with
- Keep your embryos frozen until you have decided the future your family. They can stay frozen in storage (for a fee) until you’ve confirmed you’ve completed your family.
Once you have decided that your family is complete, you will need to determine the fate of your embryos. This can be a very difficult decision for many patients, who have gone through a great deal emotionally throughout the IVF process. If your embryos were created using an egg donor, please refer back to the donor contract regarding options discussed for them.
You have 4 choices for your frozen embryos:
- Keep embryos frozen indefinitely. If you decide this, you will need to pay for the storage as long as you keep them.
- Consent to discard them. In such cases, the IVF lab will simply discard the embryos upon a direct certified order form you.
- Donate your embryos to someone. You have the opportunity to donate your frozen embryos either anonymously or directly to another couple or individual you know.
- Donate them to research. In this case, the IVF lab usually guides you and refers you to an entity that will accept them for research.
As you can see, creating your embryos is just the first step. There is much to think about regarding the future. These decisions can be difficult, and it’s important to prepare yourself emotionally, as well as intellectually by educating yourself on your options.
You can always speak to your IVF doctor or medical staff for additional information.
If you’re interested in learning more about IVF, creating embryos or embryo storage, contact Pacific Fertility Center.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a parent through surrogacy, contact Circle Surrogacy.