Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. When couples who desire to build their family begin to explore embryo adoption, many form the idea in their minds pretty quickly that the embryos they will adopt have been created through the placing family’s genetic material.

It is surprising to many recipient families to learn that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through egg or sperm donor.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, it is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What does this mean for adopting couples thinking about adopting remaining embryos?

Let’s break it down:


  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are higher quality.
  • Donors are screened carefully for genetic, medical, and psychological issues.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.


  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

If you adopt embryos created with donor material, how can you do to make this a great situation for all involved?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.
  • Create a Life Book specifically about embryo adoption and include donor “helpers” to tell the story of your child’s origins.

To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.