Embryo Adoption and the Future of Families

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-20 08:45

Embryo adoption may soon be a new alternative for couples who have been struggling to conceive through natural and assisted means.

Infertility is something that many couples across the world have dealt with and are dealing with. According to the World Health Organization, one in four couples in developing countries experience infertility. While some couples can successfully conceive through medical intervention, some may still struggle. These couples can keep receiving fertility treatments and other interventions, but doing so can be expensive. Some choose to adopt a child after struggling with infertility.

There are also couples who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process entails the collection of mature egg cells, which then undergo fertilization by sperm in a laboratory. Many of these fertilized eggs remain in storage in fertility clinics.

What is Embryo Adoption?

There are a lot of fertilized eggs left over from in vitro fertilization procedures.
[Photo by Ted Horowitz]

These fertilized eggs are thus the subject of embryo adoption. The Snowflakes® Embryo Adoption Program presented an important research opportunity for researchers. In 1997, the organization discovered that fertility clinics were storing thousands of embryos from IVFs. Thus, the organization decided to connect couples who were no longer planning on using stored embryos with couples who had fertility struggles. Over 500 children have been born as a result of these connections.

Embryo adoption is different from traditional adoption in more ways than one. For one thing, donor couples are able to keep in contact with families that adopted their embryos. In many cases, close familial relationships develop between donors and adoptive families. Donors are able to meet and form relationships both with their biological children and the children's adoptive parents. Children, in turn, are able to meet their biological siblings.

A new study has explored the growth and development of these children. Participants in the study are couples who have voluntarily agreed to relate their experiences with the program. They were also able to comment on the program and how it has affected their lives and families. Participants have revealed positive experiences and have said that the program has facilitated the creation of a large, blended family.

A New Definition of Family

Families become larger in more ways than one with with this non-traditional way of adopting.
[Photo by Cristina Cerda]

Still, many contest embryo adoption. However, the study's researchers counter that the open adoption of embryos may be better than the alternative. One important thing in open adoptions is giving adopted children the opportunity to be aware of genetic factors that may impact their health in the future. The children also have the opportunity to come to terms with their history and where they came from in a positive way.

Though this way of adopting probably isn't for everyone, it seems to be mostly positive. Families have the opportunity to grow and redefine what the term “family” means in the first place. Donors and adoptive parents may grow to consider even each other as family, blending two families into one.

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