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What to Do With Extra Embryos After IVF

Deciding what to do with extra embryos after in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be difficult. Here are a few options for extra embryos after IVF, including embryo donation, plus extra things to consider.

What to Do With Extra Embryos After IVF

If you’re new to IVF, consider the Practical Manual of In Vitro Fertilization: Advanced Methods and Novel Devices. Sometimes the more you know about the process of IVF, the easier it’ll be to decide what to do with extra embryos.

“For many infertile couples that undergo in vitro fertilization, the long path to parenthood presents the additional obstacle of what to do with extra unused embryos,” say the fertility experts at the Fertility Centers of Illinois. “After an already emotionally fueled fertility journey, many couples struggle with the dilemma to either store embryos for future use, donate to another infertile couple or to discard – a decision often impacted by personal or religious beliefs, financial constraints, ethical implications, future family planning prospects and much more.”

Below are five options for IVF couples who have extra embryos. If you’re trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization or other treatments, you may find Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm, & Egg Donation: Considering In Vitro Fertilization and Third-Party Reproduction helpful.

After In Vitro Fertilization – What to Do With Extra Embryos

Marie Davidson, a clinical psychologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois offers the following suggestions for embryos after in vitro fertilization…

Research your options about storing or donating extra embryos after IVF

There are many different options for extra embryos for couples to consider, such as storing for future use, discarding (allowing them to thaw and perish) donating to a couple who can’t get pregnant, or donating for scientific research. It’s important to know that not all embryos are acceptable for donation, depending on quality and adherence to FDA regulations.

Seek professional advice about what to do with extra embryos

When you’re deciding what to do with unused embryos after in vitro fertilization, speak with your physician. Then, talk to a fertility counselor who is familiar with assisted reproduction. If embryo donation to a couple who can’t get pregnant interests you, talk to an attorney who is skilled in reproductive law. Few states have any law regulating embryo donation and legal risks are unknown.

What to Do With Extra Embryos After IVF

What to Do With Extra Embryos After IVF

Donate extra embryos to science for research

The advancement of stem cell research and the overturn of the ban to use federal funds for the research have now made this a more viable option. Check with your embryologist for guidance, but also know that some stem cell programs may not accept embryos if they are not the genetic material of both partners.

Donate extra embryos to a couple who can’t get pregnant

If you decide to donate unused embryos to another family, there are important issues to consider. Couples need to decide whether they prefer an anonymous, closed arrangement, or an open donation. With this, there may be contact between the families, and the children (who would be genetic siblings) might meet each other.  Regardless of the choice, children may or may not try to meet the family they are genetically connected to.  Also, the receiving family may not be able to use all the donated embryos for  in vitro fertilization; the destination of extra embryos must also be considered.

Take your time when deciding what to do with extra embryos

Deciding what to do with embryos is a big decision, and it will take time to come reach a final conclusion. Most importantly, it is crucial for couples to agree on their decision.  If necessary, attend more counseling and let time help in decision resolution.

A recent study examining patient decisions regarding extra embryos before fertility treatments showed that 54% were very likely to use them for reproduction, 21% were very likely to donate to research, 7% were very likely to donate to another couple and 6% were very likely to thaw and dispose of the embryos. However, experts note that this decision often changes after in vitro fertilization, when the majority of people decide to discard their extra embryos.

To learn more about in vitro fertilization, read How Much Does IVF Cost? From $900 to $19,000.

If you have any questions or thoughts on deciding what to do with extra embryos after in vitro fertilization, please comment below. I can’t offer advice or counseling on what to do with extra embryos after in vitro fertilization, but it may help to share your thoughts and experience.

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Fertility Centers of Illinois, S.C., is one of the nation’s leading infertility treatment practices.

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10 thoughts on “What to Do With Extra Embryos After IVF”

  1. If you are in a dilemma on what to do with left over “embryos” ie em-babies… then just apply the golden rule.
    Do you love life? happy to be alive? then give them a chance, either through a FET or donate them to someone who is infertile where they can be loved and enjoy the rest of their journey….never discard….because im sure you would never “choose” to be discarded.
    Thank you for listening.

  2. lamc,

    Thank you for your comments on what to do with extra embryos after in vitro fertilization. As an infertile couple, we would’ve been grateful for the extra embryos! We didn’t try IVF, but would have tried if we had embryos from another couple.


  3. never discard “extra” embryos/ em-babies… these are living beings… always give them a chance at life. donate them to an infertile couple and or do FET. GOLDEN RULE SHOULD always be applied. Please people ….be mindful and responsible to these living beings.

  4. Hi
    Thank you for your article. I am in such a dilemma. We have one daughter, 3 yrs old, and have been trying for 2 years for a second child. I am 40 years old now.
    I chatted to my husband about IVF, and he said he was happy to investigate the option. i later told him that it’s a dilemma from a religious point of view to discard embryos, as The Christian belief is that life starts at conception.
    He just waved it off, without even thinking about it and said he would only agree to IVF then, if we donated the leftover embryos. I asked him how he would deal with the possibility of our daughter marrying a genetic sibling. He just said he would tell her, when she wanted to get married, that she must be mindful of the possibility that she may be genetically related to her potential husband.
    I was speechless! That is the least thought out, most insensitive comment I have ever heard from anyone. I would not want to donate embryos for the very reason that I could not emotionally handle the knowledge that I have a son or daughter out there that is fully related to me, my husband and my daughter, and not know how he/she was being treated.
    There is so much in the press at the moment about child abuse… There is no way I could consider it. Suffice to say that we ended up in a huge argument about it, as usual.
    He is of the mind that if it happens (conceiving another child naturally), it happens. If not, he is happy with just one child. He never talks to me about how I feel about it.
    Are all men this insensitive?

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hello Melissa,

    I think that’s a very difficult question to answer — one would need to gather all the stats from all the fertility clinics! The information above is from one fertility clinic. So, I don’t know the answer to that.

    But yes, I know that it definitely happens. There are embryo donation programs at many clinics. And, many more clinics perform the service, but don’t actually have the embryos themselves.

    I hope this helps a little!


  6. This was very helpful. Just one question-do you know besides the 7% how often couples look to use other people’s embryos? And does this actually happen?

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Katarina,

    The link to the authors of this study is above — the Fertility Centers of Illinois. They provided me with this information, so you’ll need to contact them directly for a direct citation.

  8. Where can I find the citation for the study you write about? I am doing a presentation on this subject for my class. Thank you.

  9. I’m glad this helped, Anna.

    Deciding what to do with the unused embryos was a stumbling block for us, too. The problem is, you don’t even know what you’ll be deciding or how you’ll feel until you’re actually in the situation!

    Good luck with getting pregnant….I hope it happens before you know it! 🙂


  10. Hello,

    This is one reason we don’t want to try in vitro fertilization. Deciding what to do with unused embryos is beyond what we can handle at this point.

    Thank you for writing this, it helps. I never thought about donating the embryos to another couple!