Earlier this month, there was an article on the Today Show: The anguish of saying goodbye to my 25-year-old embryos.
It is sad to hear that so many embryos sit in frozen storage and forgotten, because the families who created them do not want to make a decision on what to do with them. You do not have to leave your embryos in frozen storage for over 20 years! There has not been any research done regarding the ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos—many healthy babies have been born from embryos 20+ years old.
Fertility clinics throughout the U.S. are very familiar with the options available to people with remaining embryos:
- Keep them frozen and pay the annual storage fee. This is a reasonable option for people who still plan to attempt pregnancies with these embryos. It is a poor option for people who have completed their family and have no plan to use them.
- Donate them for reproduction through your fertility clinic. Clinic donation programs only accept embryos created at that clinic. Not every clinic has an in-house donation program. These programs are primarily anonymous. Once you donate, you do not know who receives your embryos, how many patients received your embryos, if any children were born to those recipients, and you never know if your children have genetic siblings living nearby.
- Donate them for reproduction through an adoption agency. A licensed agency, like our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, will follow the best practices of adoption and help you choose a recipient for your remaining embryos. The agency will provide you with peace-of-mind by vetting the potential recipients with an adoption home study. You will know if a child is born. You will have the opportunity to develop communications with the recipient so you know what is happening in the life of your children’s genetic siblings.
- Donate them to science. There may be researchers interested in receiving donated embryos. Ask your fertility clinic for information regarding this option.
- Thaw them and discard them. If you choose this avenue, the clinic will discard them for you as medical waste. Some people decide to thaw and transfer the embryos in an undedicated and untimed transfer (meaning the likelihood of the embryos implanting are very slim). Other families are interested in having their embryos buried. Arrangements for burial can be coordinated through Sacred Heart Guardians and Shelter.
If you are considering in vitro fertilization or if you have embryos in frozen storage it is important to know your options.
If you have an interest in donating embryos for reproduction, the longer you keep the embryos frozen the more difficult it is to find a willing recipient for your embryos. However, we mentioned earlier that there is no ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos. In the fall of 2020, the Today Show shared another story about the birth of a healthy baby girl who had been frozen 27 years!
Rest assured, we do not recommend you keep your embryos frozen 27 years before deciding what to do with them! We recommend making a choice sooner rather than later. Visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.