What Happens to Left Over Embryos?


Many surrogates will experience IVF for the first time as a result of their journey. As such, it may be a surprise to learn that multiple embryos are created during the process of preparing for transfer. It is not uncommon for there to be upwards of 9 or 10 viable embryos on transfer day. Of course, most doctors will only transfer one or two embryos at a time. So the question then becomes, “What happens to those unused embryos?”

In most cases, many of the higher quality embryos will be cryogenically frozen to be preserved for 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 also 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 remain 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 journey that this choice will be made by the intended parents and that you will not have a say in their decision. The potential discarding of embryos can be a hot topic issue for some. You may want to consider how you and those in your support network feel about this possibility before embarking upon your journey. Any additional questions or concerns that you have can be addressed with your Admissions or Case Specialist at any time.

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.