The disposition of unused frozen embryos

One difficult decision for many couples is how to dispose of unused frozen embryos once they have completed their families. This is true both for couples in which women are using their own eggs as well as those who use an egg donor.

A study reported in the October 2010 issue of Fertility & Sterility examines how both types of patient choose to deal with unused embryos in a private practice IVF center. A total of 1,262 patients using their own eggs had 5,417 embryos cryopreserved. A majority either used their embryos (39%) or continued storage (35%). Of 364 patients, who did not use their remaining 1,406 embryos, 77 (21%) donated 290 embryos to other infertile couples, 41 (11%) donated 160 embryos for research, and 246 (68%) discarded 956 embryos. In the same time period, 272 donor egg recipients had 1,233 embryos cryopreserved. A majority either used their embryos (40%) or continued storage (23%). Of 110 recipients that did not use their remaining 455 embryos, 62 (56%) donated 280 embryos to other infertile couples, 6 (6%) donated 31 embryos for research, and 42 (38%) discarded 144 embryos.

A higher proportion of patients using their own eggs ultimately used or stored their cryopreserved embryos for future reproduction compared with donor egg recipients. The interesting outcome is that egg donor recipients were much more likely to donate to other infertile couples and less likely to discard their remaining embryos compared with patients. I would guess that it's because the embryos created from donor eggs are not as strongly viewed as having a biological connection to the intended female parent and thus they feel more comfortable donating them to another couple.

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