March 18, 2024

What Can I Learn About an Embryo Before I Adopt?

understanding embryo adoption


Are you considering embryo adoption?


If so, you might have a lot of questions about the embryos that you could adopt through Nightlight Christian Adoptions. First of all, what is embryo donation?


Embryo donation is a decision that is made by couples or individuals who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment in order to help them start their family. Oftentimes, after successful IVF cycles, a couple will be left with a surplus of viable embryos that remain stored away and preserved through the process of cryopreservation. With these extra embryos, donors can give the gift of life to their embryos and a chance to bring a family together through placing their embryos with those who are looking to start their own family. Nightlight’s Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program works with both embryo donors and adopters to nurture this hope and make these miracles of life possible. 


Great! But… How much information will I be given about the embryo?

Many embryo adoption programs will provide you with some valuable information. This includes how the embryos are preserved.  In addition, some information on the donor family may be shared with the recipient family. There may be  genetic/health information regarding the embryo that you can discuss with your reproductive endocrinologist. The Snowflakes program requires  the donor family to complete FDA-required infectious disease testing. The donor will provide up to 3 generations of medical history. The fertility clinic where the embryos were created will provide comprehensive documentation regarding the set of embryos you plan to adopt. The Snowflakes program was created to help families with remaining embryos find a family who will give birth to them. Rarely has the program been unable to find an adopting family for a set of embryos!



frozen embryo cryopreservation


Let’s talk about cryopreservation!


How are embryos stored? .  Embryos are flash frozen (vitrified) and stored in special cryopreservation tanks called dewars. The Snowflakes program derived its name from a comparison of embryos to a flake of snow - 1. Each one is frozen, 2. Each one is unique. The  process of cryopreservation helps preserve the embryo for future use in reproduction. y. Here is how this process works:


Step one > Preparing the embryos. Once the embryos reach a certain stage of development, which is typically five to six days after fertilization, the process of cryopreservation can begin. Before the embryos can be preserved, they are protected with a solution called cryoprotectant solution. This prevents any crystal formation on the embryos that could damage them during the freezing process. 


Step two > Freezing Process. Once the embryos are properly prepared and protected with the solution, they are cooled down rapidly to very low temperatures in a controlled freezing process to prevent cellular damage.


Step three > Storage. The now frozen embryos will be carefully transferred into containers that are filled with liquid nitrogen and monitored carefully inside cryogenic storage tanks that are typically kept in fertility clinics or cryobanks. The liquid nitrogen will maintain very low temperatures of around -196°C (-321°F). The extremely low temperature stops any biological activity from happening within the embryos until they are thawed and transferred.


Will the viability of the embryo decrease over time?

No studies have shown that frozen embryo quality diminishes over time.  The embryos that have been properly stored in cryopreservation have remained viable. There have been many  cases of embryos stored for over 20 years that have successfully transferred, resulting in healthy pregnancies and babies.



couple holding hands adopting

Will I be given information about the donors?


Fertility clinics may have an internal embryo donation program. , In such programs, embryo donors usually  remain anonymous throughout the donation process. Because of this, the recipients of the embryo(s) will be given a limited amount of information about the donors. . In most cases, at a minimum, medical history and screenings are required in order to donate. This is to ensure the health and safety between the parties involved. 


Through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, both embryo donors and adopting families are guaranteed information and knowledge about one another, and communication between parties is encouraged. The embryo donor that you are matched with may provide you with information such as medical history, physical characteristics, education, faith, and even photographs, depending on the level of communication. All of this information is used to ensure a successful match. 


In any type of embryo donation or adoption, both biological parents of the embryos have to go through a thorough screening process. They will be asked to fill out forms to provide  information about themselves and their medical histories.  They are required to update lab work and complete the full FDA Reproductive Donor Panel of infectious disease testing. This information is also required if there was an egg and/or sperm donor involved in the process.


What about information regarding the embryo?

If an embryo was pre-genetically tested by the embryo donor family, those results will be provided to your reproductive endocrinologist along with other embryology reports. With the Snowflakes program, you can be certain that if there are any known medical conditions associated with the genetic family of the embryos, you will be alerted during your matching process. You will also be made aware of any other information that could impact a successful frozen embryo transfer. This includes information such as the age and health status of the donating mother at the time of egg retrieval, the age of the embryo itself, and the stage of the embryo. 


The adopting family will also be aware of  how many embryos they will be adopting. The Snowflakes Program’s policy is that all of the donating family’s embryos will be placed with the adopting family. This allows  genetic siblings to have a relationship and be raised by the same adopting family.



You’re in good hands!

holding a baby's feet


When it comes to adopting an embryo, know that you are not alone and you will not be left in the dark. In order to guarantee the health and safety of both parties, you will be able to access information about the embryos and the donor family with regards to health and medical history. . Visit our website to learn more about our adoption process and how you can donate embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program.

By Beth Button


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