Traditional Home Study vs Snowflakes Family Evaluation

 

When you are adopting embryos through the Snowflakes embryo adoption program, there are two options you can choose from to fulfill the home study requirement of this program:  a traditional home study or a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  When deciding between these two options, there are several factors to consider.  Among them are cost, the overall timeline, the adoptive family’s location and accessibility to home study providers, and whether the adoptive family may consider switching from embryo adoption to another type of adoption if their embryo adoption doesn’t result in a successful pregnancy and birth.

 

One benefit of the SFE is that the cost is almost always lower than that of a traditional home study.  Since only one face-to-face home visit is required and the paperwork is generally less intense, it also tends to be a faster process than that of a home study.  Third, each of our 10 Nightlight offices has multiple SFE providers who can travel to meet with families regardless of what state or country they live in, whereas home studies have to be performed by a licensed home study agency in the adoptive family’s state of residence.  It is also advantageous to a family to work with professionals who are well-trained in all things embryo adoption rather than a home study agency that is unfamiliar with this type of adoption.

 

There are also circumstances where it might be beneficial to complete a traditional home study instead of an SFE.  Some couples who apply with Snowflakes may already have a completed home study.  Others may find a local home study provider whose fees are lower than those associated with an SFE.  The main benefit of doing a home study is that if the adoptive couple plans to switch to another adoption program if their embryo adoption isn’t successful, this home study may be modified or updated to use for domestic, foster, or international adoption, whereas the SFE is only valid for embryo adoption.

 

Our Snowflakes team is always happy to discuss these options with you and help you decide the best home study option for your family.

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

Dangers of Waiting to Donate your Embryos

 

Headlines state, “Baby Born from Embryo Frozen for 27 Years.” We all read in awe, marveling over the circumstances that allowed this to happen. If you have frozen embryos in storage, this might be the moment you begin considering the possibility of donating your embryos to another couple.

You might now be thinking, “well, my embryos have only been frozen for 5 years, I have plenty of time!” Coming from years of experience in the embryo adoption field, we would encourage you to challenge this assumption. Although research shows that children can still be born from older embryos, the chances a fertility clinic will allow the embryos to be transferred are unpredictable.

One major roadblock that occurs when trying to donate older embryos is the receiving clinic’s willingness and ability to thaw and transfer them. The science behind thawing and freezing embryos is constantly changing, growing, and improving. This can make it difficult when embryologists attempt to thaw older embryos. Most embryos frozen before 2012 were frozen using a method called ‘slow-freezing.’ After 2012, most were frozen using ‘vitrification,’ which is much safer and more effective. Because of this shift in freezing methods, most clinics do not train their embryologists on slow-freezing anymore. This makes it difficult to find a clinic willing to thaw and transfer the embryos, even if a willing adopting family is found.

Another issue with waiting to donate your embryos is found in the lack of medical records prior to 2012. Many clinics tend to destroy records after 5-10 years, and others place records into long-term storage, which are then difficult to find. These medical records, including important embryology information, are essential in the donation process. Not having these important documents when attempting to donate your embryos can unfortunately be detrimental to success.

If you are contemplating donating your embryos, please consider these risks as they wait for their fate in frozen storage. They are the siblings to your children, and lives worth preserving and living. Don’t wait to give your embryos a chance at life!

By: Kaelah Hamman

Five Choices for Embryos in Frozen Storage

 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Donate them to science. There may be researchers interested in receiving donated embryos. Ask your fertility clinic for information regarding this option.
  5. 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.

 

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

 

 

What memories do you have as a child around this time of year? Perhaps, like me it was the family gatherings, the giving of gifts, blessing those who are not so fortunate, or just watching the snow fall. It always looked so beautiful as its gentle blanket covered the landscape. Each snowflake adding its own impact.

 

In celebration of the season, I remember cutting out snowflakes, adding glitter, and using them to add a little sparkle to my daily life. Did you ever cut out snowflakes in order to decorate for the winter season? And did you know, there is even a special day allocated to that every year. The day is called, “Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day.” This year it’s celebrated on December 27th, 2020. Imagine all around the world people are making unique paper cut outs of snowflakes.

 

Some of us only think about snowflakes during the winter months, but there is more than one meaning for the word snowflakes. Do you know another type of snowflake that while frozen inspire people to get excited about love, hope, and happiness?

 

These are the kind that exist throughout the year. Here in the U.S. its estimated that there are over a million of these types of snowflakes. Imagine a million frozen snowflakes. That’s a lot of snowflakes! If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about frozen embryos.

 

The idea of using the word “Snowflakes” to describe frozen embryos was coined by a company called Nightlight Christian Adoptions, who handles various types of adoptions, including embryo adoptions. In fact, it was Nightlight who started the whole idea of embryo adoption here in the United States.

 

What is Embryo Adoption? Couples who grow their family through the process of IVF often find they have more embryos than they need to build their family unit. Therefore, once their family is complete, a couple may place their remaining embryos to be adopted. This is a beautiful gift for an adopting couple who, without the placing family’s kindness, may never have had the opportunity to become pregnant and have a family they can call their own.

 

During this holiday season of love and goodwill, perhaps, you might give a thought to the million or more embryos that are just waiting to be born. Maybe you, yourself, have embryos you would like to place for adoption. Or maybe you’re someone who would like to adopt embryos, to have the opportunity of becoming a parent, and welcoming a new baby into your home. Each one adding their own little sparkle.

 

written by Jen Grams

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.

Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer

 

You have decided you want to pursue embryo adoption and have completed all the necessary steps. You have chosen an agency, filled out an application, completed the home study, have been matched with embryos, finalized the contract, and had the embryos shipped to the clinic!

Now you are super excited to get to the fun part, right? The day of your long awaited frozen embryo transfer (FET)! However, you may have to wait just a little bit longer before that special day.

Your clinic may require some preliminary tests before you are ready to begin preparation. Once you have been medically cleared, then you are ready to start the prep work!

First, you will typically begin birth control, followed by an ultrasound to make sure the lining of the uterus is thin and blood work to check hormone levels. Then, your reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe estrogen pills to build up the uterine lining, followed by another ultrasound and more blood work. (Some REs may even allow you to complete a natural cycle transfer with no birth control or medications. Talk with your clinic to see if this is a possibility for you!) REs have an “ideal” thickness that they like to see the uterine lining before they proceed with an FET, but don’t be discouraged if your lining is not within that range! Many women, including myself, have gone on to do transfers with a lining that was not considered optimal and had a successful pregnancy!

About five days before your scheduled FET, you will begin taking progesterone in oil injections each day. It is not the most fun, but so worth it once you see that positive pregnancy test! I would recommend warming the oil with a heating pad or by rubbing it between your hands before you start. It also helps to sit on a heating pad for a few minutes before the injection, as this will help prevent lumps under the skin. Massaging the injection site immediately afterward can help prevent those lumps, too. Switching injection sides each day is recommended, so you do not get too sore on one side.

The day of the FET is really quite simple and easy compared to everything else leading up to it! You will come to the office with a full bladder (yes, really), get changed in to a medical gown and hairnet, and the doctor will perform the FET using a small catheter. You get to watch the embryo get implanted right there on the ultrasound!

At this point you are done! Try to keep busy and focus on other things during the two week wait for the pregnancy test. You will continue the progesterone in oil injections for those two weeks after your FET and continue them for several weeks after if you have a positive pregnancy test.

You got this, mama! And if your FET resulted in a negative pregnancy test, you are strong and courageous for giving those little embryos a chance at a full life!

 

-An Embryo Adoptive Mama

For more information, please visit Snowflakes.org

The Quality of Embryos Does Not Equal Pregnancy Success

 

It was a dark snowy Friday night when I was driving to meet my husband at a local fundraiser.  I typically drive in silence but I had stumbled across a radio program that caught my attention.  My husband and I been unsuccessfully trying to build our family for over three years.  The initial testing had left us without answers.  We were preparing to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and were nervous about the ‘next steps’.  At the time we did not know embryo adoption existed. Should our next step be IVF? Could we do IVF and still honor our faith and honor life?  These discussions were weighing heavily on my heart. As I listened, the message focused on the sanctity of human life, even in its earliest stages, and my tears welled up.  A part of me was scared this was my answer: IVF was not part the right choice for us.  As I arrived at our destination, I saw my hubby, rolled down my window and said I would meet him inside. As he walked away, the message concluded and right there in front of me, fireworks started going off.  I couldn’t have planned the timing better, but there they were…. Fireworks.

A few weeks later our RE advised us that they would do a workup on me and then likely would recommend IVF if all came back ok.  We shared our beliefs with them about not creating more embryos than we would use. They hesitantly agreed to honor our wishes, warning us our chances of conceiving would be significantly reduced with these restrictions.  We left feeling a little defeated and more confused than ever.

We returned to our RE’s office ready to discuss the recent test results and next steps.  We were floored when our doctor said ‘premature ovarian failure’ and said our chances of conceiving even with IVF and without any of our ‘restrictions’ were less than 5%.  I was shocked!  I was angry.  I was confused.  I was every emotion under the sun.  I was devastated.  But now we knew for sure: the door to IVF was shut.

Somewhere in the fog of the next few months, I learned of embryo adoption and that night of fireworks started to have new meaning and new hope.  I had been heartbroken over the possibility of not being able to feel life grow inside me.  I wanted to experience the joy of childbirth.  Embryo adoption truly was and is the answer to our prayers.  We began our embryo adoption.

A year later, we had been through one failed FET and had been matched with a second family.  We were head over heels in love with this family. They had chosen life for their three embryos and had agreed to place them with us.  We felt such a strong connection to the family and were overjoyed with the match.

When our embryologist received the embryology report, she called to tell us we should consider sending the embryos back. We quickly said no, we were committed to our babies.  She went on to tell us the embryos were graded a B, BC, and C and there had been a power outage when they were being frozen.  The power blipped for just a second and then the generator kicked in, but with the fragility of embryos, she feared we wouldn’t even have viable embryos once they were thawed.  We were crushed but held onto hope that this was the plan for our family and we needed to stay the course.

Two months later we were pleasantly surprised to show up for our transfer with two viable embryos ready to transfer and one left safely in cryopreservation for a future attempt.  On September 15th we heard the words we had waited so long to hear: “You’re pregnant!” On June 2 we gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Makenna Lee.

And let’s not forget about that little ‘C’ embryo that was waiting in the freezer for us.  Against all odds, he survived the thaw beautifully and we completed our family with the birth of the sweetest boy ever, Alexander Brooks.  While embryo adoption may not be the right choice for everyone, it blessed us beyond expectation and measure.

 

–Embryo Adoptive Family Testimony