What Do Couples Do With Excess Embryos?

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excess embryos

As couples navigate their fertility journey, they are often faced with options and forced to make decisions that otherwise never would have crossed their minds. Decisions need to be made that sit right with the people making them. Decisions like what to do with excess embryos.  

It is often the case that after several rounds of successful IVF, couples are faced with the reality of excess embryos.

What are they supposed to do with them? Granted this is a problem that many infertile couples dream of having once they’ve had all of their desired children. What to do with excess embryos is a complicated and emotional decision and does not come easily to most couples.

Options for Dealing with Excess Embryos  

Option #1 – Choose to transfer the embryos to themselves and having a larger family than originally planned.

Option #2 – Donate embryos for scientific research. Technically, the embryos get destroyed but not before being used to help train embryologists or geneticists or for stem cell research.

Many couples view this choice as a gesture of gratitude to the precise science that helped them achieve their dream of having a family. And this is their way of somehow giving back. 

Option #3 – Couples can choose to destroy their embryos. 

It is hard for some couples to imagine donating embryos to another couple, knowing that they could potentially have biological children in this world who are being raised by someone else. They may wonder, “Will the children be happy? or “Is a loving family raising them?” Would the couple be able to navigate knowing that a little boy or girl they see in the crowd could be their biological child?

Option #4 – Couples can choose to not make a choice….They can keep their embryos cryopreserved for an indefinite period of time.  

When I have this discussion with my own clients, they often indicate that they are waiting for some sign or epiphany before they are prepared to make a permanent decision. This indecisiveness, however, comes at a cost. In Canada and the United States, the costs to keep embryos frozen can range from $500 to $2000 annually. 

Option #5 – Couples can choose to donate their embryos to another couple, so they can adopt and raise these potential children.

This is the ultimate act of selflessness… Again, this practice is not seen too often. Yet there are some couples who are so grateful that they have been able to complete their family and they feel donating to another couple to achieve the same dream is a natural and easy decision.   

Although this is a highly altruistic form of kindness, it is often accompanied by many complex emotions which should be addressed in therapy. 

Truthfully, when we spend so much time and money and energy and emotion on trying to figure out how we are going to create children and become parents, the last thought on our minds is how we will dispose of our excess embryos.

Whatever route we choose should be well-thought out and a decision that is made with our partners, and one that can be properly processed with support from extended family, friends, or with the help of a therapist. 

I welcome your thoughts. 

Sari

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About Author

Sari Shaicovitch is a professional Social Worker and therapist whose calling is to spend her days helping clients with all sorts of issues. Sari's personal experiences and adventures in motherhood have helped her to find her professional voice. Follow Sari as she talks about the pleasures and pains of intimate relationships, the complexities of raising children, and discover insights into what it takes to make family life run smoothly. You can find Sari at sarishaicovitch.com or by email at sari.socialwork@rogers.com.

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