Remaining Embryos: 5 Tips for Decision-Making

For couples who have extra embryos after IVF, the decision of what to do with those embryos can be agonizing. This extra embryo decision-making tool has been developed to help patients sort through their personal feelings to arrive at the best decision for their personal situation. In general, the options are: embryo donation(“embryo adoption”); research or educational use; disposal; trying for more children than you had initially planned; or continued storage.

For those couples who used an egg donor, the decision can be complicated by any limitations placed on further use of the remaining embryos by the egg donor. For example, the egg donation contract may require the egg donor’s permission to proceed with embryo donation to another couple.

Here are some things I advise my clients to think about when making decisions about their leftover embryos:

Tip #1: Embryo Donation (“Embryo Adoption”)

Would you feel comfortable with another family parenting a child who is genetically related to your own children? If yes, would you prefer to have information about this child or would you prefer a completely anonymous arrangement?

Tip #2: Personal/Religious Beliefs

Do you have personal or religious beliefs that are important to accommodate?

Tip #3: Alternatives

Would you prefer that your embryos are used for some good purpose, but not used for procreation of another child? Would you feel more comfortable with an alternative to discarding the embryos, such as compassionate transfer to your uterus at a time when you are not expected to become pregnant?

Tip #4: Delay the Decision

Are you financially able to delay the decision-making? Sometimes it can be easier to make these kinds of difficult decisions down the road, once your children are older. If you are really struggling with the decision and can afford to continue paying storage fees, this can be a good option.

Tip #5: Donor Egg Considerations

Don’t forget, if your embryos were created with donor eggs (or donor sperm), it is important to have the donor’s consent to any further donation of the embryos.

You can read a personal story about how one woman made the decision over at Creating a Family’s blog.

New Hampshire lawyer Catherine Tucker