What is Embryo Donation?


Most couples arriving at surrogacy expect to conceive a child with a biological relation to them by the close of the process. However, there are rare cases in which a donated embryo may be a viable option for some couples.

Generally in IVF there will be multiple embryos created through each egg donation process. While some of these embryos (typically 1-3) are implanted into the uterus of an intended mother or a surrogate, others are frozen for a potential future transfer. In the event the first transfer fails, these frozen embryos may be used for an additional chance at achieving pregnancy. 

However, some couples will be lucky enough to start their family building before all of their frozen embryos have been used. In these instances, couples may opt to donate their frozen embryos to other families who are having difficulty conceiving with embryos of their own genetic makeup.  

It is rare, but not unheard of, to have intended parents who have exhausted their pool of embryos as well as the funding to attempt a final egg donation cycle. In these instances it may be beneficial to consider the use of a donated embryo. The medical cycle would be identical to that of an embryo transfer created from your own genetics. This option would allow one final opportunity for an intended mother to carry her own child or, if using a surrogate, to be present for the pregnancy and birth of your future child.  

While a donor embryo will not bear a biological link to either parent involved, this option does still allow intended parents to experience pregnancy milestones, pre-birth bonding, and have an active say in the prenatal tests and choices the carrier takes part in.  

Know that a biological link to the child is not necessary for the child to recognize you as their parent or to form that parental bond moving forward. What matters is that this child has at least one involved and dedicated adult to act as a parent moving forward in their lives.

Clearly, this choice is often the final resort and it is not easy for couples arriving at surrogacy to have to consider. Understandably, you may want to speak with Dr. Kim Bergman before pursuing this option. If you’re considering a donated embryo, talk with your case specialist about the potential pros and cons and what your next steps may be.

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.