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Embryo Adoption

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This article will touch only briefly on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) for purposes of clarification. For more information on infertility, treatments, and new developments, please visit Infertility.Adoption.com, or any of the informative links below.

Embryo adoption refers to the legal adoption of one or more non-genetically related embryo(s) by persons seeking to achieve pregnancy. The adopted embryo(s) is(are) implanted in the uterus of the adopting mother who wants and is able to experience childbirth.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been part of our vocabulary for 20 years, ever since the birth of the first "test tube baby" in 1978. Specifically, IVF is a "procedure that involves removing eggs from the ovaries and fertilizing them outside of the woman's body."

The Mechanics

Existing embryos: During IVF treatments, couples may produce many embryos in their attempt to conceive. These embryos are cryopreserved (placed in cold storage) for use as needed. If the couple conceives without using all the stored embryos, they may choose to have the remaining embryos destroyed, to donate them for research or implantation, or to make them available for adoption.

Made-to-order embryos: Embryos can alternatively be created using the sperm and eggs of selected donors. Donors may be selected on the basis of adopting parents' criteria.

Medical requirements: Adopting mothers must be physically able to carry a child to term.

Making it legal: As the law stands now, many state laws determine that a woman who gives birth to a child is his/her parent, and few states have any statutes covering embryo adoption. All reputable specialists in this field recommend that contractual documents be drawn up between the genetic and adopting parents that clearly define the agreement.

Some programs, like the Snowflakes embryo adoption program, utilize the same type of agreement used in traditional adoptions. Adopting parents must have a completed homestudy, and genetic parents relinquish "parental rights" before the embryos are transferred. However, there are many unregulated programs and no consistent policies.

The Questions

Why would genetic parents choose embryo adoption? Making the embryos available for adoption allows the genetic parents to participate in the selection of adopting parents and in the life of the child or children born as a result, much in the manner of traditional open adoption.

Why would adopting parents choose embryo adoption? While the reasons are as diverse as we are, some of the reasons cited in published works include:
  • the desire to experience childbirth and control what the fetus is exposed to during pregnancy
  • possible solution for older persons who may not qualify for the age limits set on traditional adoption
  • fees and costs are generally lower than traditional adoption
  • the ability to choose genetic parents' characteristics
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