Jenni and Keith met through a mutual love of haunted houses. Keith has three daughters from a previous relationship who are 28, 20, and 18. However, Keith and Jenni both wanted their own baby together after getting married. They experienced three chemical pregnancies while trying and soon discovered that they had both male and female factor infertility. They would not be able to conceive on their own. That is when they found out about Embryo donation/adoption.
Jenni says, “We found out about embryo donation, and we knew that was how we were going to complete our family. Couples who have completed their families through IVF and have leftover embryos can choose to donate their remaining embryos to other couples who are struggling to complete their families. Over the course of our treatment, we received 8 donor embryos, and we transferred seven across four frozen embryo transfers before we got our daughter.”
Their daughter Arcadia is now about 10 months old and an absolute joy to be around. She is not only their rainbow because of the chemical pregnancies and early miscarriages during the first three transfers but also a “Snowflake” because she came from a frozen embryo donated by another family.
According to Jessica Kanter, MD and Reproductive Endocrinologist at Shady Grove Infertility Clinic, “About 1/3 of couples end up with male factor infertility, 1/3 with female factor infertility, and 1/3 have both male and female factor infertility and a small percentage on both sides have undiagnosed infertility.” Jenni and Keith fell in the 1/3 that had both but because Jenni’s uterus was still in good condition, they were able to adopt frozen embryos from another family and use IVF to transfer the embryos to become pregnant.
This process is like the process of IVF except using other families’ embryos that they no longer need. That family chooses to give up their remaining embryos to another family instead of having them destroyed. They can do this either through an adoption clinic like the Night Light Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program or an infertility clinic. Unlike egg donation or sperm donation, this donation process is not paid, it is giving the gift of life not only to the embryo but to the family who is trying to build their family.
With an adoption clinic like the Night Light Snowflakes embryo adoption program, the adoption process is controlled very similarly to domestic adoption. The adoptive family must go through health checks, a home study, and a rigorous background check before being matched with a donor family. These two families will also keep in contact throughout the process. Counseling is provided on both sides as the donor family is giving up a genetic child and the adoptive family is grieving the fact that they will not have a genetic child of their own making. However, this process is also wonderful because it gives the adoptive family the chance to experience everything from implantation to birth and childhood and beyond.
The donor/adoption process is more anonymous with embryo adoption through an infertility clinic. The family may choose to donate or destroy their remaining embryos. Those that are donated go into frozen storage until a family chooses to receive them. Some families may get one to two batches of embryos from different families like Jenni and Keith. They got eight embryos total from two different batches. They went through four transfers of two embryos each. The first three resulted in an early miscarriage but the 4th one stuck and they got their daughter Arcadia.
Embryo adoption is such an amazing way for families who may not be able to conceive naturally or can’t do IVF on their own. The mom can carry the embryo to birth or if she is unable to, the family can work with a gestational carrier or another woman who volunteers to carry the baby to birth and then give it to the family. It is not a very well-known option for those suffering from infertility, but it has been slowly gaining in popularity.
Here are some links to more information about embryo adoption, the embryo adoption clinic listed above as well as the local infertility clinics that may network with the embryo adoption clinic to help families receive the child they have always dreamed of.
Carolyn Kaplan MD owns and works at Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in Atlanta, GA