Embryos are fertilized eggs, and are created during the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) process. During the IVF, if more embryos are created than needed, donation is an option. Donors can choose to either donate eggs from a fresh cycle, or freeze them for future recipients. Donating embryos can give someone else an opportunity to conceive when they are facing challenges getting pregnant. Similar to donating sperm or unfertilized eggs, embryo donations can be done knowingly or anonymously. In most states, it’s legally treated as a transfer of private property, and medically treated as a donation of cells or tissue.
Known donations, also known as directed donations, are when donations are made to a specific person known to recipient and/or doctor. The parties involved exchange information like names and medical information about themselves. They also reach a mutual agreement that everyone is comfortable with, which includes levels of future contact. The advantage of having a known donor is that recipients can communicate with them in the future for medical issues that may arise, and possible contact with biological siblings. There are many important details that must be figured out first, especially if the recipient is not going to travel to the clinic where the donation is made. These things include:
- Finding a clinic that will accept embryos from another clinic for transfer
- Whether clinic will perform FET (frozen embryo transfer) from a known donor
- What testing and screening procedures will be required by recipient and donor
- Meeting all criteria to accept embryos and perform transfer
- What paperwork and legal documents are required by the receiving clinic, including timeframe required to process paperwork
Anonymous donations usually take place through an IVF clinic, but sometimes an agency can perform the procedure. Clinics that have a donation program offer very little information to the recipient about the donor. Donors aren’t usually involved in the selecting process of a recipient, however sometimes they set qualification guidelines for eligibility purposes for recipients. If there is to be a chance of future contact, an attorney is utilized so that only the attorney knows the names and locations of donors and recipients, and an anonymous status remains intact.
Recipient and Donor Requirements
As with any medical procedure that has to do with donating or receiving a donation, there are tests that must be done to ensure both parties are good candidates. In the case of embryo donations, donors and recipients must be tested for:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Treponema pallidum (syphilis)
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Neisseria gonorrhea
After testing, the screening process begins and involves a review of the medical history and test results, a physical examination, and a patient interview in which an evaluation of risk factors is made. A potential donor can be ineligible if either the testing or screening indicates the presence of a communicable disease or risk factor. In a known donation, it is still possible for recipients to receive embryos from donors who are ineligible after they have completed the testing and screening process. In these cases, the recipients are encouraged to sign a legal waiver acknowledging informed consent, and accepting all responsibility.