It is a concern that is being voiced with more regularity: Are children who were adopted as embryos prone to any adoption-related trauma?

Adoption trauma describes the trauma connected to being separated from one’s birth family. Either at the moment of birth or at another point during primitive years. While this separation may be in the best interest of children (like some children in foster care or birth mothers who place their baby with an adoptive family who are able to provide a better life), they still experience removal and separation in their bodies, and fear can be imprinted on their neurological systems.

However, because children born through embryo adoption are not separated from their birth family, the exact same type of trauma does not necessarily apply. Just because the embryos were gifted to another family who wishes to give them a chance at life (either through deliberate choice or extenuating circumstances), does not mean this trauma is embedded in their DNA—even though they are not biologically related to the mother who gave birth to them.

We are not saying that children born from embryo adoption are free of trauma. Nor are we saying adoption-related trauma in embryo-adopted children is 100% preventable. There are aspects of embryo adoption that can manifest adoption-related trauma.

The good news? Some of the major causes are preventable.

It can start with how educated the adoptive (or recipient) family is at the beginning of their journey.

If the family chose to pursue embryo adoption through an adoption agency, or an embryo adoption program that requires an adoption home study and education, their future children may be less likely to develop adoption trauma. While home studies are not a requirement to receive embryos, it can be helpful when it comes to parenting the child/young adult the baby will eventually grow into. The adoptive parents are armed with resources and tools on how to raise adoptive children and answer the tough questions, just like if they were adopting an already-born child. Families who receive their embryos through an embryo donation program may not have access to this education or resources.

Trauma can stem from how the child found out about their biological origins.

There are so many stories about how donor-conceived children found out they were not biologically related to their mother or father (or both!). These children were kept in the dark about their conception, due to the parents’ shame and fear about their own infertility struggles or unresolved grief. As a result, there are millions of individuals out there wrestling with shock, a loss of self-identity, and even rejection or shame about who they are and how they came to be. In fact, in a 2020 survey of donor-conceived children and adults, 70% of respondents reported they were distressed, angry, or sad when they finally learned of their origins.

But you do not have to keep your child’s story a secret from them! Being open and honest about their story and inviting them to ask questions creates a healthy environment that is less likely to foster traumatic experiences. In the same 2020 study of donor-conceived children and adults, the experiences of early and late origin discovery were compared, showing that telling a child about their origins early affected them more positively than finding out later in life.

Open adoption is beneficial for the child, giving them a better sense of self-identity.

Embryo adoption agencies and some embryo adoption programs do have the option of open communication between donor and adoptive families. As the child grows, they will begin to have more questions and become more curious about where they came from. Having an open relationship with the donor family will allow the child to ask these questions and never have to wonder who they are. This openness would also allow the child to be able to get to know their genetic siblings and build a relationship if they choose. These relationships do not invoke confusion or trauma in the child. Allowing the children to have these positive relationships show so much sacrifice and love on the adoptive parents’ part as they will be able to watch their adopted child or children grow and flourish.

To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit