Infertile couples may obtain donor embryos from other couples who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) and no longer need the embryos.
Most egg and sperm donors are subject to strict screening in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, couples who donate embryos usually create those embryos for their own use. As such, they might not undergo this screening process. Recipient couples should know whether their embryos’ donors have been screened and the risks involved if they have not.
When screened, donors should be tested for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. They should also give a complete medical history.
Like the donors, the recipient couple should have their medical history evaluated and be screened for infectious diseases and mental health issues. A clinician will need to make sure that the recipient mother’s uterus is healthy enough for pregnancy, especially if she is over 45 years old.
Before embryos can be transferred, the recipient is given estrogen and progesterone to prepare her endometrium (lining of the uterus) for pregnancy. Once the endometrium is ready, the embryo(s) are transferred to the uterus through a catheter. The recipient continues with the hormone treatment until she tests positive for pregnancy. Once this occurs, she continues with the hormones through her first trimester.
Using donated embryos can become complicated. It is recommended that recipient couples undergo counseling so that they fully understand the implications. Neither partner is genetically related to the child. The couple will need to determine how they will explain this situation to the child when he or she is old enough. They will also need to agree on whether the names of the donors will be revealed to the child. If so, then the type of relationship between donors and child will need to be discussed.
Recipient couples are also encouraged to consult with an attorney who specializes in family planning. Couples should be aware of the parentage laws in their state and consider the liability implications associated with using donor embryos.