If you’re at the beginning of your fertility struggles and just hoping to have any embryos at all, then having extra embryos once treatment is finished might be the last thing on your mind. However, extra embryos are a common occurrence, so deciding now how you will handle this situation – should it arise – can take some of the stress out of it. Even if you change your mind later, it’s beneficial to have a plan early on.
When it comes to how to handle your extra embryos, you have four basic options.
- Transfer them anyway and have a bigger family than you were planning.
- Destroy them. Extra embryos that are destroyed are thawed and discarded as bio-waste. Some pro-life couples choose a practice that involves transferring the embryos during a non-fertile stage in the recipient’s cycle. This practice fits in the same category as destroying the embryos, because that is essentially what happens to them.
- Donate them to science. In this scenario, the embryos are also destroyed, but not before they are used in training and research meant to help cure certain diseases and injuries.
- Donate them to another couple. This is sometimes called Embryo Adoption, but it’s not a legal adoption; it’s a tissue transfer (like egg donation). The embryos are thawed and then transferred to another hopeful couple.
Keep in mind that cryopreservation isn’t cheap. Your main factors when deciding what to do with your extra embryos will likely be emotional and financial: how do you feel about the embryos, and does cryopreservation fit into your budget?
Whichever option you think might be right for you, the important thing is that you do, at some point, make a decision. Choosing how to handle extra embryos can be emotionally taxing; if you process this choice now, it might not be any easier later, but at least the stress of deciding will be behind you. Be sure you understand your options, such as how long you may keep your embryos stored at the clinic you use, whether the clinic has an embryo donation program, and what the embryo donation process will entail.
There are thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – of embryos stored in fertility clinics across the country. Many are there because the parents are paralyzed by the decision of what to do with them, and so they do nothing. Avoid this prolonged, agonizing decision later by reading, thinking, and talking about it now. That way, you’ll be prepared if you are presented with this dilemma later on.