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Donor Embryos: The 3rd Option in 3rd Party Reproduction

Third-party reproduction involves a donor who is willing to provide gametes (reproductive material) to a couple or individual hoping to get pregnant. Over time, oocyte (egg) and sperm donation has become familiar to those searching for viable choices to resolve infertility. Donor embryos are the latest option for patients, and one of the most intriguing.

Texas Fertility Center has a large (and growing) third party reproduction practice and, as a result, believes that it is important to take part in the conversation within the medical community as well as in one-on-one discussions with patients, about this new frontier in assisted reproductive technology.

Donor Embryo Use Raises a Host of Questions

Although Texas Fertility Center has shared information and insights about donor embryos on our website for quite some time, we are only recently beginning to provide donor embryos as part of our established donor program. As this is a new service, many of our patients may have questions about the use of donor embryos, which some people also call “embryo adoption”. Texas Fertility Center welcomes inquiries, and provides a brief list of issues to consider here:

1) Legal issues. With donor egg and donor sperm, the recipient individual or couple shares a biological connection with the baby. For example, women who use donor sperm typically also use their own egg; couples pursuing donor oocytes frequently also use the male partner’s sperm. Recipients of donor embryos do not have a genetic link to these embryos, as they came from the sperm and egg of individuals outside of their relationship. We advise all parties who are interested in donor embryos to obtain legal counsel with experience in family and/or reproductive law to assist in defining comfortable parameters for both the recipient couple and embryo donors.

2) Ethical issues. Some reports suggest that there are potentially as many as several hundred thousand frozen embryos currently in storage. While the overwhelming majority of these will eventually be transferred into the couple or individual for whom they were originally intended, some patients will have frozen embryos remaining in storage after they have completed their family building. While the disposition of these embryos is ultimately subject to the desire of the patient(s) as well as federal and state law, many options exist for most of these embryos. Among these options are donation to scientific research, donation to IVF programs or other institutions, or donation directly to infertile couples. This decision frequently represents an ethical dilemma to the couple whose gametes were used to create these embryos.

3) Financial issues. Embryo donation provides an option for couples that can’t afford traditional IVF. It also represents an option for couples that no longer wish to use these embryos.

4) Medical issues. Couples adopting embryos need to consider the maternal age, psychological health, and medical history of the donating couple.

Texas Fertility Center manages an in-house egg donor program, and our staff celebrates successful pregnancies alongside these joyful new parents. Scientific breakthroughs lead to new applications for fertility treatment, and our fertility specialists carefully consider the ethical, legal, and medical ramifications of each treatment before adopting new technologies and offering them to our patients. Contact us to learn more about TFC donor services.

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