What Happens to Leftover Embryos?


Many egg donors are curious about what will happen to their eggs following their donation. While you probably expect that your eggs will be fertilized in an attempt to create as many viable embryos as possible, you may not realize that not all of those embryos will be used.

In most cases, fertility doctors will transfer between one and two embryos into the uterus at a time. Occasionally, your donation may only yield one or two high quality embryos, leaving none left over following the transfer. It is more common that a single donation will result in multiple high grade embryos. This situation often leaves several embryos “left over” that are viable but are not transferred at the time of fertilization.

In most cases, the higher quality embryos will be cryogenically frozen to be used in future transfers. This means the intended parents will have embryos ready for use, if this first transfer doesn’t result in a viable pregnancy. These frozen embryos can be thawed months or even years later with the intention of creating a biological sibling.

Even if embryos are later thawed for use, there often are leftover frozen embryos at the close of the IP’s family building journey. If this is the case, the intended parents will have the choice of what happens to these embryos. Choices include:

  • Continuing to keep the embryos frozen
  • Thaw the embryos and discard them
  • Donate embryos to science
  • Donate embryos to other couples

It is important for you to understand at the onset of your donation that this choice will be made by the intended parents. You will not have any input with this decision. Additionally, it is unlikely that you will have any knowledge of how many embryos were created, used, or leftover.

Dr. Kim Bergman

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 Fertility Counseling Services and 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 upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.