Embryo Donation Vs Adoption - Difference, Pros, Cons & more

Embryo Donation and Adoption – A New Path to Parenthood

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Couples who struggled to become parents because of infertility issues can now experience the joy of getting pregnant and giving birth with the help of embryo donation. Embryo donation has made it possible for several couples to experience the joy of parenthood. Read on to know what it is.

What Is Embryo Donation?

In order to conceive a child, many couples opt for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). In this procedure, sperm and eggs are combined in a laboratory to form the embryos and then placed in the uterus to enable conception of an IVF baby. However,  these embryos can also be preserved or frozen for future use. It completely depends on the couple how they want to use the embryos. They could be thawed and disposed of, used at a later stage by members of the family, used for research purposes, or donated to an infertile couple.

Post the IVF procedure, couples who have been blessed with a child and have additional embryos can decide to donate or put up the embryos for adoption. This is an extremely noble and heart-warming gesture that helps infertile couples start a family and put the embryo to its right use.


Difference Between Embryo Adoption and Embryo Donation

The debate about embryo donation vs adoption is an ongoing one since the time both terms were coined, although they refer to the same procedure. Through its implementation, both the processes offer couples to build their families and go through the wonderful experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Since adoption takes place after the birth of a child, the term embryo donation is preferred over embryo adoption.

In an embryo donation program, only existing patients of the concerned clinic may be allowed to donate. Also, it is the clinic’s prerogative to whom the embryos may be donated to, with the donor rarely having a say in it. There are lesser social guidelines for the recipient as well as the donor. The embryo adoption program, however, works exactly like normal adoption and follows a similar set of guidelines. Legal contracts, post-adoption procedures, and support are applied to the recipient of the embryo. The donor and the recipient details are protected to avoid any future complications.

What Are the Requirements for Embryo Donation?

Before the donor embryo transfer process is initiated, the donor has to fulfil the below-mentioned criteria in order to qualify as one:

  • Both male and female donors have to undergo tests for HIV-1, HIV-2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, gonorrhoea, and syphilis.
  • A screening process is carried out where the medical history of the donor is reviewed, and a physical examination is conducted.
  • The donor has to go through an interview where various risk factors, including high-risk social behaviour, are evaluated.
  • If the donor indicates the presence of a communicable disease or any other risk factor, the donor is deemed to be ineligible.A couple with foetus in between

How Does the Embryo Donation Process Work?

Embryo donation takes place in an anonymous, semi-open, or open arrangement. An anonymous donation happens when the recipient and the donor are unaware of each other’s identity. A semi-open donation allows some basic information to be shared, but addresses or contact details are kept hidden. In an open arrangement, both concerned families know each other’s identity and can connect to each other before, during, and after the donation.

After an embryo is frozen, it is possible to store it for long periods of time. When a recipient is ready, it can be thawed and used to attempt pregnancy. Frozen embryos can be transported from one part of the world to another with ease. After an embryo is thawed, it is ready to be placed in the recipient’s uterus.

One or two embryos are transferred into the womb through the cervix using a catheter. This is generally carried out with 2-6 days of fertilisation. Discuss with your doctor about the number of embryos to be transferred in order to improve the chances of success and to avoid the risk of multiple pregnancies. In an ideal situation, the embryo will attach itself to the uterine wall and grow. After about two weeks, a pregnancy test can confirm if the embryo donation has been successful.

Pros and Cons of Embryo Donation

Here are a few pros and cons of embryo donation that one should consider before making a decision about going ahead with the process:


  • Embryos are readily available: Frozen embryos are created when a couple decides to opt for IVF when they are unable to conceive. After the child is conceived, the remaining embryos are donated and hence are available readily for couples who are willing to adopt.
  • A woman can experience pregnancy and childbirth: During the normal adoption process, the mother misses out the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. But in the case of embryo adoption, the baby actually grows in the mother’s womb, thus creating a natural family experience.
  • It is a noble act: Childless couples who want a child of their own can do so, and this makes a massive difference to their lives. It helps infertile couples start a family in a natural way despite their complications, thus making it an exceptionally honourable act.


  • Adoption approval can take time: Embryo donations generally happen through fertility clinics that could have long waiting lists. There is a high possibility of delay in the approval of adoption because the demand is always higher than the supply, and the matching process may also take some time.
  • No guarantee: A frozen embryo transfer has similar success rates when compared to a traditional IVF treatment. However, with growing maternal age, the success rate goes down. The duration the embryo is frozen for can affect the rate of success, too.

Factors That Determine the Success of Embryo Donation

The following factors have a definitive impact on the success of embryo donation:

  • An important factor in the success of embryo donation is the centre where the embryo is frozen and the technique or program used to freeze it.
  • The centre’s proficiency in freezing and thawing can play a huge role in the success of embryo donation.
  • The developmental stage of the embryo when it was frozen also determines the success of embryo donation process.
  • The donor’s age is of critical importance as success rates fall if the female providing the eggs is older.
  • The number of frozen embryos up for donation is important too as fewer embryos mean lesser number available for transfer.
  • The embryo quality at the time of being frozen also decides the success of embryo donation.
  • A prerequisite hysteroscopy is advised to the mother who will be carrying the donated embryo.

Cost of Embryo Donation Treatment in India

Just as you would check out the embryo adoption risk in this process, the cost of embryo donation is also worth considering. Fortunately, embryo donation is typically less expensive when compared to various other popular fertility treatments available. The costs include the charges to be paid to the clinic or the medical facility that holds the embryo tests and transfers it to the recipient.

The cost associated with the embryo donation treatment in India is much lower as compared to those in other countries. Due to this, many foreign couples prefer visiting India to carry out the procedure successfully. This is primarily because, during embryo donation treatment, expenses of fertility medications, egg retrieval, and culture or fertilisation of the embryo is completely avoided.

Embryo donation and adoption can prove to be a successful line of treatment for childless couples who want to bring in a baby into their lives. The procedure is easy as compared to other treatments, not to mention the lower costs associated with it.

Also Read: Chances Getting Pregnant with Donor Eggs

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