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Donor Embryos

The ability to freeze and thaw embryos successfully has led to the possibility and increasing occurrence of  embryo donation. Generally, embryos are donated by couples who have been through IVF, have completed their family and no longer require the embryos. Donating embryos is a very simple procedure physically, however there are many social and emotional considerations for the donors as well as the recipients.

Embryo Donors

For the donors it may well have been difficult to decide what to do with the remaining embryos. If the couple decide not to use them, they may choose to donate them to another couple. This may be a de-identified donation or a directed donation to a couple known to the embryo donors. The choice may not be easy and many donors hope the need for a decision will just disappear. Many also feel that donation of their embryos is the best option and want to give others the possibility of pregnancy, to give something back to the program, and don’t want to destroy the embryos. However, the donating couple need to realise that if it is successful the resultant children will be full siblings to their existing children. The donor couple need to think through what they will tell their own children and how they will feel if they have questions about the donor children. The donors need to know why they have made the decision. Some worry that they will feel they have given away their own children but usually justify this by knowing they have given a child a chance of life. It can be a very emotional issue. RMW encourages couples to discuss these issues during their counselling session.


Likewise, there are also implications for the recipients. They need to be comfortable with the knowledge that neither of them will be the genetic parents. Recipients should think through what they intend telling any children, how they will feel about questions or if their children want to contact the donors. Most want information about the donors ages, the ages and sex of any children and any significant racial background. Embryo donation will be subject to the same identity release as donor sperm and eggs.

Social and legal concern

There is often concern by couples, both recipients and donors, who worry about the children meeting and marrying in the future. To help allay these fears, many states including NSW, have a central donor register which can be accessed by children born as a result of gamete or embryo donation. Donating embryos is a very generous gesture and can make a huge positive difference in the lives of those couples who cant have children. However everyone involved needs to have adequate time and counselling to be able to think about the possible implications before a pregnancy occurs.