Snowflakes’ Families Participate in First Ever Study on Embryo Donation

 

At the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in October 2022, new research project was presented on the Psychosocial Outcomes of Children Born via Embryo Donation. The study participants included Snowflakes Embryo Adoption families, but embryo donation is the preferred terminology in the medical world.

The objective of the study was to assess parents’ perception of the psychosocial adjustment of their children born via embryo donation and their relationships.

 The hypothesis of the study were:

  • Kids born via embryo donation are psychosocially well-adjusted
  • Parents perceive good relationships with their children born via embryo donation

The conclusion? Families created through embryo donation report favorable:

  • Parent-child relationship quality
  • Child behavioral adjustment
  • Child social/emotional adjustment

Several embryo donation programs gave access to their clients/patients who had children born through embryo donation or adoption, including Snowflakes, the majority of which identified as Christian.

In summary, the report stated there is a high degree of comfort with embryo donation given disclosure rates with minimal regret. Most of the respondents were provided with home study education that explained the benefits of not keeping their embryo donation a secret – especially from their children.

Another positive finding of the research is that embryo donation does not appear to increase the risk of adverse obstetric or fetal outcomes.  

 Most of these families received education regarding how to tell their children, building relationships with their donor family, and avoiding secrecy. Isn’t it great to have some research to back-up the anecdotal evidence seen over the past 25 years?

Learn more about embryo adoption at www.Snowflakes.org.

Why is Embryo Donation a Type of Adoption?

 

Did you know that embryo adoption has existed for 25 years?

National Adoption Month is recognized in November, where adoption agencies and families celebrate the beauty of adoption. However, embryo adoption is often overlooked. Why is it not considered a form of adoption even though thousands of families have participated in it for years?

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are two separate concepts, but are often confused as the same.

In typical embryo donation programs, the donor family creates embryos through IVF and can donate the remaining embryos to a family. However, the practice is not well regulated. Often clinics “in-house” will match the families and process all the paperwork. It is a hard and extensive process, and many clinics do not even find it worth the work to have an embryo donation program at their practice. The embryo cohort can be split up and often little communication or documentation is made between the donor and recipient family.

With embryo adoption, all the best practices of adoption are applied to embryo donation. In the end, the adoptive family will be receiving a child that is not genetically related to them, just like any form of adoption. Adopting families should feel prepared in how to parent their adoptive child, and placing families should feel assured that their embryos are going to a safe and loving home.

All adopting families are required to complete a home study which includes background checks, psychological evaluations, education, and home and post-birth visits. The adoption is finalized through a contract under property law.

Similarly to a domestic infant adoption, donors and recipients also choose each other and can decide the form of communication they are comfortable with. Families are given more information about each other than in a typical embryo donation program. Adopting families are given the donor family’s profile and medical histories so their adoptive child can know about their genetic background. The desire is that genetic siblings are placed together and families are encouraged to be open to discussing with the adoptive child of their adoption history.

The goal of embryo adoption is to provide safe homes for embryos who then become children. The only way to ensure the safety of the embryos is to apply the best practices of adoption.

The controversy over embryo adoption is often affiliated with the lack of knowledge about what it truly is and how it differs from typical embryo donation programs. There is also the ongoing controversy over the personhood of an embryo. Do embryos have the same rights as a child? The topic is still debated, but ultimately, the end result of any embryo donation and adoption program is a child being placed in a family that is not genetically related to them. The adopting family should be prepared to parent this child and placing families should be assured that their child is placed in a loving home.

Embryo adoption is another great form of adoption to celebrate this month. In fact, 1,000 Snowflakes babies will be born in just a few months! All these children would not have a home if embryo adoption did not exist. Join us in celebrating the families and children touched by this beautiful form of adoption.

To learn more about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

Embryo Adoption Grants and Scholarships

 

Starting the embryo adoption journey through the Snowflakes program can be very exciting, but the financial component can take people by surprise. Adopting embryos does indeed have a cost, but the good news is that there are grants, scholarships, and loans out there that can help fund your fees for the adoption process, fertility treatments, and both!

See below for our compiled list of grants and scholarships that can help you through your embryo adoption journey!

  • Baby Quest Foundation Grants: This grant is awarded two times a year, between the amount of $2,000-$16,000. It can be applied to the embryo adoption process and is open to all who are permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Cade Foundation Family Building Grant: This grant is offered twice per year—spring and fall. Awards up to $10,000 per funded family to help with costs of medical infertility treatments. Applicants must have a diagnosis of infertility from their doctor and must be legal, permanent U.S. residents.
  • Footprints of Angels: Footprints of Angels is a nonprofit organization supporting women impacted by recurrent miscarriages and infertility. This grant states it will cover the costs associated with third-party reproduction, which includes embryo donation and adoption. Applicants must be citizens or legal residents of the U.S. and have a diagnosis of infertility certified by a medical provider.
  • The Hope for Fertility National Grant: This grant can be applied to the embryo adoption process, FET expenses, and blood work and tests. It cannot be applied to expenses for travel or medication. The grant is available to couples who are married, legal residents of the U.S., and have been officially diagnosed with infertility by a medical professional.
  • Gift of Parenthood: This grant helps couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $8,000 to $15,000, available four times a year. This grant can be applied to embryo donation or adoption expenses. All applicants must be uninsured for fertility treatments, and treatments must occur at a Snowflakes partner fertility clinic that is a member of SART.
  • Nightlight Foundation Grant Program: Nightlight Foundation (formerly “Babushka Fund”) assists families who might not otherwise be able to afford the costs of adoption for a child who might not otherwise be adopted. A grant committee will review applications and make awards of $500 to $5,000 (with an average gift of $1000) to prospective adopting families. This grant could be available to Snowflake’s families who are adopting embryos through the Open Hearts Program.
  • Adoption Bridge: While this is not specifically a grant, this can be a great resource for raising funds that any grants may not cover. Nightlight’s crowdfunding website is where you can tell your embryo adoption story, post pictures, and videos, and keep people informed about what’s going on. You can accept donations from your friends and family, and these funds are sent directly to Nightlight.

This is not an extensive list, but it is a great way to start your research! Nightlight also offers all clients the opportunity to connect with our Family Resource Specialist who assists families in identifying funding resources for their adoption fees.  To learn more about embryo adoption or donation through Snowflakes, visit Snowflakes.org.

By: Paige Zapf

How to Answer Strange Questions About Embryo Adoption

 

 

Embryo adoption is a unique option that can help families experience the joys (and challenges!) of pregnancy and childbirth with their adopted child. You may be starting the process through the Snowflakes program, but it is usually a new and difficult concept for many people. You may run into some interesting reactions and questions when you start to share your journey.

These are the most common questions we have heard that families were asked as they were going through the adoption process:

Q: “That sounds weird… like something right out of a sci-fi movie.”

If you get this comment, change the connotation from weird to amazing!

A: “It is a miracle, isn’t it?! It happens when science is combined with the miracle of life! But it’s not new—cryo-technology has been around since the 1950’s. It is amazing that God has allowed a way for leftover embryos from IVF cycles to be preserved so they can be used later on!

Q: “Isn’t it hard on the kid because they’re born in the wrong decade?”

This is usually a question you will get if the person is trying to wrap their minds around the concept of freezing the embryo. Since embryos have no known “shelf-life,” they can be frozen for many years, thawed, and then transferred in a cycle. There have been many healthy children who have been born from embryos ten years old or even older.

A: “A child born from an embryo has their birthday like any other kid, and that is their age. Embryos are frozen in time—and liquid nitrogen—somewhere in the first five days of development, and they stay at that stage until they are thawed and transferred.”

Q: “Isn’t it robbing orphaned kids overseas or in foster care?”

This is a tricky question to answer, because while it can come across as belittling or even judgmental, it’s usually based off of a person’s genuine care for orphans. Embryo adoption is just one of many adoption choices. Embryo adoption doesn’t replace other adoption programs, it expands the choices people have for helping children who need a family

A: “This is was right adoption path for us. It’s just like how a family may choose domestic adoption over international adoption. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. We’re still adopting a child—just much earlier in their development.”

As you pursue your embryo adoption journey through Snowflakes, we hope this better prepares you to answer well-meant questions with confidence. To learn more about embryo adoption donation through the Snowflakes program, visit Snowflakes.org.

By: Paige Zapf

Do We Need a Home Study for Embryo Adoption?

We believe they are absolutely necessary! Here are a three main reasons why we at Nightlight agree that embryo adopting parents should have a home study completed before adopting embryos.

Reason #1: Having a completed home study follows best practice for adoption. After all, embryo adoption ultimately results in a child being placed in a home just like any other form of adoption such as Domestic or International Adoption. This child is just at the earliest stage of his/her life.

Reason #2: Requiring a completed home study is in the best interest of the Adopting Family. It is important to us that our adoptive families feel educated about their decision and confident in their desire to adopt a child through this unique (and not so well-known) form of adoption.

Reason #3: Requiring a completed home study is in the best interest of the Donor Family. Having our adopting couples complete a home study gives peace of mind to our donor families. Home studies involve appropriate amounts of education, assessments, and even include background checks. We want our donor families to feel at peace knowing their embryos are being placed with families that are prepared, educated, and committed to loving and raising these children.

Whether you’re adopting embryos through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required. Did you know that Nightlight Christian Adoption also offers another option for embryo adopting families? We offer what is called a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE). The SFE is a more cost effective option, requires only one home visit, and can be completed within 1-2 months. We offer this option to any family no matter the state or country they live in!

To learn more about our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit our website.

by: Kristen Schaedel

Natural vs. Medicated Cycle for your Frozen Embryo Transfer

It is an exciting thought that you can carry your adopted child through embryo adoption! However, there is a medical side of this adoption process that requires some thought. One decision families are faced with is whether to do a medicated (sometimes referred to as hormone replacement) cycle or a natural cycle when preparing for their frozen embryo transfer (FET). There is a lot to consider when weighing these two options.

To begin, remember the goal in preparing for your FET—it is to maximize your chances of pregnancy and delivery of your baby. The idea, broadly, is to mimic the natural environment of the uterus where conception is most likely to occur. The partnership you develop with your doctor and partner fertility clinic is going to be instrumental in navigating your decisions.

Natural Cycle

This depends on a woman’s body, the predictability of her cycles, and her ability to monitor her cycle. A natural cycle typically does not use any kind of estrogen replacements and may or may not use progesterone.

Medicated (Hormone Replacement) Cycle

The protocol here uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone to ensure that the endometrium (lining of the uterus) is ideally prepared to receive the thawed embryo. Most physicians prefer the endometrium to be 8-14.5mm thick when performing a FET. Remember that this protocol will vary based on each unique woman, be sure to talk to your doctor about your options.

Another hurdle is to determine with your doctor which method is best for you, your embryos, and your unique body. Also, it is important to know that some doctors will not do a natural cycle oftentimes because the predictability rate of a successful outcome is not as researched or known.

Remember, this decision needs to be a cooperative one between you and your physician. It is important that you are all on the same page for your pregnancy success! Another important aspect of the FET is a discussion and agreement with your physician regarding how many embryos you will transfer in that particular cycle.

Regardless of the method you choose, here are some things to do after your FET:

  • Pamper yourself!
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep your stress levels low
  • Limit caffeine

To learn more about embryo adoption and if it is the right option to grow your family, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

By Dawn Canny

PCOS and Embryo Adoption

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can cause issues such as insulin resistance and irregular menstrual cycles. More importantly to most women, PCOS can stop ovulation from occurring, which in turn impacts fertility. Around 6% to 12% of US women of reproductive age have been diagnosed with PCOS, making it one of the most common causes of female infertility today.

Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? Are you fearing the possibilities of infertility? Are you already experiencing some signs that things may not be working as normal?  If you are in one of these difficult spaces, be rest-assured that there are options for you!

One great option for women struggling with PCOS-related infertility is embryo adoption through our Snowflakes program! Compared to IVF where the ovaries must be hyper stimulated for egg retrieval, embryo adoption allows women with PCOS to avoid this process entirely. This is significant, since IVF can increase risk of developing a dangerous condition called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome in women with PCOS. This condition can be deadly, and may require hospitalization or surgical procedures in order to be successfully treated.

Thankfully, research now shows that using frozen embryos can improve the rate of live births in women with PCOS without the risk of hyper stimulating the ovaries. Similarly, using frozen embryos allows women with this condition to have safer and more successful pregnancies than women who do IVF. This gives women with PCOS a safe and fulfilling option to achieve their dreams of pregnancy and motherhood!

If you are dealing with PCOS, is embryo adoption the option for you? It just might be! Click HERE to read the story of a Snowflakes Embryo Adoption family who overcame PCOS-related infertility through embryo adoption! To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

By: Kaelah Hamman

Gestational Carriers and Embryo Adoption

Surrogacy for pregnancy and gestational carriers seem to often be a trending topic online. We all know that social media can be a source of very helpful connections and information, but it is not always the best source of truth.

Here are some of the myths surrounding surrogacy/gestational carriers and embryo adoption that we have heard that we want to clear up!

  • MYTH: A “gestational carrier” is the same as a “surrogate”
    • If a woman is a “surrogate”, that means that she is biologically related to the baby she is carrying. A “gestational carrier” does not share any genetics with the baby she carries. In embryo adoption, if the adopting mother is not carrying the child herself, then they will utilize a “gestational carrier” because there is no genetic link between the embryo and the woman carrying the baby.
  • MYTH: You can save fees by using the DIY method to find a gestational carrier
    • When considering the gestational carrier option, the cost can be prohibitive unless you happen to know someone who is willing to be a surrogate on your behalf. Even then the costs can be high, and this is not an area where saving money should be the biggest priority.
  • MYTH: I need to adopt embryos before the gestational carrier agreement is drafted by an attorney.
    • It is important that the details of the gestational carrier agreement be settled before an embryo adoption match is made. Be sure to find a local family law attorney who is skilled in the field of assisted reproductive technology. The agreement between the embryo adopting family and the gestational carrier needs to include details such as:
      • Willingness to travel to the appropriate clinic for the frozen embryo transfer(s)
      • Details on how many transfers the gestational carrier is comfortable with
      • Confirmation that the carrier has been screened to carry a pregnancy
      • The fine points of how many embryos the gestational carrier is comfortable with transferring at any one time
  • MYTH: What my acquaintance in Texas knows about gestational carriers and how to navigate the process must apply to me in Florida.
    • Be really careful here. The laws surrounding surrogacy and gestational carrying are very specific and vary different from state to state.

If you are considering embryo adoption using a gestational carrier, be encouraged. Families have managed this in the past without issue…just be aware that there are still a few important things to consider and plan for.

You can learn more about Embryo Adoption on our website. See more details on gestational carriers on pages 30-31 of our Embryo Donation and Adoption FAQ Booklet.

What Are Your Home Study Options For An Embryo Adoption?

Requiring a home study as part of the embryo adoption process follows the best practices of adoption.  Regardless of whether government entities recognize or regulate the adoption of embryos, the end result is that a child will be placed with parents to whom he or she is not genetically related.  The home study involves several elements, including assessment, education, and preparation.  It also provides peace of mind to the placing parents involved.

 

When adopting embryos, whether through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required.  In addition to a domestic home study, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers another option, the Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  Here are some things to consider when comparing the home study and SFE:

 

  • Cost:  Managing expenses is an important consideration for adoptive families.  The cost of home studies varies greatly and is often influenced by the cost of living in the region where you live, as well as the supply/demand factor.  You may be able to find an agency who will complete a home study for $1,200, while others charge $3,000 or more plus travel expenses.  Many agencies also charge a separate application fee.  The fee for an SFE is $1,500 plus travel expenses.  There is no application fee.
  • Availability: The SFE is offered to all families, regardless of what state or country they live in.  Traditional domestic home studies must be performed by an adoption agency that is licensed in your state of residence.
  • Modification: Some adoption agencies will permit a home study to be amended for the purpose of a domestic or international adoption if, for example, you begin the embryo adoption process and later decide to switch to a different adoption program.  The SFE cannot be modified to support any other type of adoption.
  • Timeline: The amount of time it takes to complete the SFE is mostly controlled by the adoptive family and their speed in gathering and completing the necessary paperwork.  It is possible to complete the process in 1-2 months, but the average is 3-4 months.  The time it takes to complete a domestic home study varies greatly depending on the agency you use and the state in which you live, but is generally a longer process.
  • Number of visits: Every state has different home study requirements, and that includes the number of face-to-face visits that home study providers must make before they can complete a home study.  Most states require 2-4 separate visits for a licensed home study.  The SFE requires only one home visit with an SFE provider, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.
  • Paperwork: SFE paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study, since we follow an adoption model.  However, it is often a smaller amount than what’s required for a home study and the requirements are more flexible since we aren’t having to follow the regulations of any government entity.

written by Beth Button 

Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.