Adoption of Embryos: Get Your Questions Answered Here.

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Adoption FAQs

The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) understands your desire to have a family, possibly through embryo adoption. So we’re here to help!

When couples go through in vitro fertilization (IVF), sometimes there are fertilized eggs (embryos) that remain and are frozen for later use. When couples decide that their family is complete but still have embryos remaining, there are a few options. They can donate them to a couple who is unable to conceive. Couples can donate the embryos to research. Or they can thaw them and let them die. A fourth option is to keep them frozen and continue to pay storage fees, but this is not a decision!

Embryo adoption allows the genetic parents to give their embryos a chance for life. And it provides you with an opportunity to have children. Embryo adoption allows you to experience pregnancy and the birth of a child. Watch the video and check out the list of FAQs below to learn more.


Get Started

  • What is the first step?

    Begin your embryo adoption journey by filling out the application for recipients online. Completion will require payment of a non-refundable $400 application fee. If you receive an ‘error’ message upon submitting the application, it is likely you do not meet one or more of our program requirements. (To see the requirements, scroll down to the ‘Who can adopt?’ question.)

    Once you submit your application, the NEDC receives notice and will email you a confirmation. A follow-up packet of consents and forms to be completed and returned will be mailed to you via U.S. Post Office.

    You and your spouse are also both required to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and we will include a laboratory requisition in the packet for you to have that testing. At this point you may also start your home study process, although this does not need to be completed prior to your initial appointment. We accept home studies from any agency licensed in the state in which you reside to perform a home study. If you need help finding an agency, please contact Debra Peters with the National Fertility Support Center at 616-455-1499, 616-204-4052 or Once we receive all of the paperwork in the packet back, we will contact you to set up your initial appointment at the NEDC for medical clearance. Once you are medically cleared and the home study is completed and reviewed, we will place you into a transfer cycle and start the embryo matching process.

    At any time, if you have questions about the application process, the NEDC is here via phone at 1-866-585-8549 FREE. The compassionate staff of the National Embryo Donation Center is eager to work with you to achieve your dream of a family. Please check out the additional FAQs below to find answers to some of the most common questions potential recipients have.

  • Why choose embryo adoption?

    Infertility makes a couple feel lonely, empty and incomplete. The joy of having a child is like no other experience in life, fulfilling the heart’s deepest desire.

  • Who can adopt?

    We work hard to assure our donors that their embryos will be placed in healthy, stable homes with loving parents.

    • Couples must be a genetic male and a genetic female married for a minimum of 3 years.
    • Wife must be 45 years old or younger.
    • Wife’s body mass index (BMI) must be below 40 at the time of the frozen embryo transfer.
    • The combined age of applicant couple must not exceed 100 years.
    • The adopting mother must be healthy and able to carry a child to term. Surrogates are not an option for carrying the pregnancy.
    • The wife must not smoke during the application process, embryo transfer preparation and procedure process, or during pregnancy.
    • At least one partner of the recipient couple must be a legal citizen of the United States, Mexico or Canada or have a permanent work visa in the U.S.
    • Couples must complete and pass a comprehensive family assessment (home study) prepared by a state licensed adoption agency in the couple’s state of residency. Click here for adoption agency information.

    We are not able to make any exceptions to these requirements. If you meet the requirements, our dedicated staff will help prepare you every step of the way for the exciting journey ahead.

  • Can I adopt embryos of a different ethnicity?

    Regardless of ethnicity, all embryos are in need of good homes. The overwhelming majority of our embryos are Caucasian. We have very few minority embryos. Because most families (Caucasian or minority) desire to adopt embryos with a shared ethnicity, we generally reserve minority embryos to be matched with recipients of the same ethnic background. We do make exceptions in the cases of Caucasian recipient families who already have adopted children of different ethnic backgrounds.

  • Will we need to travel?

    You will have two visits to the NEDC office in Knoxville, TN. 

    Once your program application has been received and you have completed and returned your recipient packet, our Patient Coordinator will set a date for your initial consultation. The Medical Director will review the wife’s medical records to determine if you are physically capable of carrying a pregnancy. You will meet with our team and they will walk you through the NEDC’s embryo adoption process. During this visit the wife will undergo a physical exam and “trial transfer” to check for any physical barriers which might impede the actual embryo transfer or pregnancy. Once your family assessment has been completed and reviewed, our Patient Coordinator will provide you with donor profiles that fit your wish list. It is strongly suggested that you select a second or backup donor in case the embryos from your primary donor do not survive the thawing process.

    Your second visit is for the actual embryo transfer. If your primary donor embryos do not survive the thawing process and you have previously selected a backup donor then your travel and uterine preparation will not be wasted. Since the NEDC stores all donated embryos on site, your backup embryos can be easily retrieved and thawed so that your transfer can be completed. Monitoring pre- and post-transfer will be done at your local infertility clinic at home. If pregnancy does not occur after the first attempt, further visits will be needed for future attempts, if desired.

  • How long does it take?

    From the time you submit your online application, it will generally be about 8-10 months until your frozen embryo transfer takes place.

  • Acupuncture has been part of my infertility treatment. Is that service available near the NEDC?

    Yes, the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture is located not far from the NEDC. They see embryo transfer patients 7 days a week including, if needed, outside of business hours. You may contact the center at 865-315-3845 to discuss setting up an appointment, or you may click here to visit their website and learn more information. (Note: This is not to be taken as an NEDC endorsement of fertility-related acupuncture. We answer this FAQ solely for the convenience of patients who have chosen it on their own as part of their treatment process.)

  • Why is screening necessary?

    We do a comprehensive evaluation and test for certain diseases to ensure the best conditions for successful implantation and a healthy pregnancy.

  • Will the genetic parents know our or the child’s identity?

    It all depends on the level of communication that you choose to have with the donor family. Open relationships can allow as much or as little personal information as you and your donors wish to share. If you choose to adopt anonymously, the donors will not know any identifying information on you.

  • Is this really adoption?

    Embryo adoption is neither legally nor technically an adoption. It is governed by contract (ownership) law and not adoption law. Adoption is defined as the placement of a live child after birth but it is a term that most people can relate to when discussing receiving donated embryos for reproduction. When you give birth to your donor embryo conceived child, your names will be on the birth certificate as the parents of this child. Many parents describe it as, “giving birth to your adopted child.”

  • Can genetic parents change their minds and get the child?

    Under current law, once the embryos have been transferred, the genetic parents have no legal claim to any resultant children. The contract agreement and relinquishment forms are legally binding between the two families.

  • Can embryo adoption lead to infections in the mother?

    The genetic parents provide health histories and undergo disease screening prior to retrieving the sperm and eggs to create their embryos. The FDA requires that the donating couple be re-screened prior to donating their remaining embryos. If they used an egg and/or sperm donor, those donors do not have to be re-screened due to their being screened more heavily before being allowed to donate, but the genetic contributor of the couple must be.

  • Does this technique cause birth defects?

    Birth defects are no more common with this technique than with standard in vitro fertilization, and are predicted to be no greater than in the general population.

  • What are my chances for a successful pregnancy?

    According to the latest statistics from the CDC, for embryo adoption the national average pregnancy rate is 50 percent and the national average birth rate is 40 percent. These statistics are from a database of all U.S. assisted reproductive technology clinics. The NEDC’s overall pregnancy rate per transfer is 55 percent and live-birth rate is 45 percent. Not all embryos survive the freeze/thaw process, though approximately 75 percent do, and thawing of your selected embryos may not lead to a transfer. However, this may still offer the greatest hope of achieving pregnancy.

  • How many embryos will be transferred to my uterus?

    Several factors are considered in deciding on the number of embryos to transfer, including patient’s age, age of the female embryo or egg donor (if used) at the time of egg retrieval, embryo quality and a favorable prognosis. Following this criteria, usually one to two (occasionally three) embryos are transferred.

  • Is there a chance for multiple births?

    As with any assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure, the chance of multiples is higher (30% per embryo transfer) compared to a naturally occurring pregnancy. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that, “physicians are obligated to provide safe and conscientious decisions regarding treatment which includes the number of embryos transferred.” The guideline continues with “after careful consideration of each patient’s own unique circumstances…transferring greater or fewer embryos than dictated by these criteria may be justified according to individual clinical conditions, including patient age, embryo quality.” Other factors that influence the number of embryos transferred include the age of the female embryo or egg donor (if used) at the time of egg retrieval and a favorable prognosis. Even by following these guidelines there is no guarantee that a pregnancy with multiples will not occur. The risk is no higher with donated embryos. In most cases, two to four embryos are transferred.

  • How many attempts can I have to become pregnant?

    The NEDC gives patients three attempts to become pregnant using donated embryos. If you achieve pregnancy and give birth you can return for three more attempts for a sibling.

  • What are the costs?

    The NEDC’s program and medical fees are roughly $7,500. This includes matching services, document preparation and delivery, initial consultation with trial transfer, frozen embryo transfer (FET) fee, embryology/laboratory fees, and cycle preparation fee. Other costs will include: medications, home study, reimbursement for embryo transportation and donor FDA re-screening for STDs, and travel. In most cases, the total expenses should come to less than $10,000. For a more detailed explanation of costs, please view the NEDC Fee Schedule. If your insurance includes infertility coverage, generally your lab work and ultrasounds are paid. You may also be eligible to take an itemized deduction for personal medical care expenses paid during the taxable year.

Adoption Resources

We know this can be an exciting time and you probably have a lot of questions about the embryo adoption process. We’ve complied some helpful resources here for your benefit but, if you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at 865-777-2013 or call toll free at 866-585-8549.