Embryo Adoption FAQs and Information

The What, Why, and How of Embryo Adoption

Embryo Adoption has been around since 1999. It is a viable alternative to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is a unique way for struggling couples to experience the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth!

What is embryo adoption?

Couples conceive embryos during the process of IVF. Some of the embryos that result are cryopreserved and the couple intends to transfer them at a later date. Sometimes, the couple is never in a position to try and achieve additional pregnancies, so they turn to embryo adoption as a means to find willing parents for their embryos. The embryo adoption occurs when the family who conceived the embryos donates the embryos to a receiving couple who intends to transfer the embryos into the adoptive mother’s womb.

Does Lutheran Family Service promote IVF or offer IVF services?

LFS neither supports of performs IVF. It is our belief that it is contrary to God's will for parents to conceive and freeze their children. Therefore embryo adoption is an alternative to IVF and a way to rescue these vulnerable boys and girls.

How long has embryo adoption been around?

In 1999 a couple in California underwent the first frozen embryo transfer (through embryo adoption). The result was their beautiful daughter, Hannah.

How many babies have been born through embryo adoption?

The clinic Lutheran Family Service partners with, Christian Nightlight Adoption’s Snowflake Program, have had more than 500 children born through the program. It is estimated that over 5,000 births in the US have resulted from embryo adoption.

What is an embryo?

"Embryo" is the biological name given to human life from the moment of fertilization through eight weeks of development.

How and why are embryos created?

Embryos are conceived by a couple hoping to achieve pregnancy and parenthood. Embryos are conceived during the process of IVF. Embryos conceived during IVF are done so outside of the womb using petri dishes, medical doctors, and medical procedures.

How many embryos are in frozen storage in the United States?

There are roughly 1,000,000 frozen human embryos in the United States.

How many of these embryos are available for adoption?

It is estimated that about 6% of embryos cryopreserved in the US would be available for donation/adoption if a couple was willing to receive them.

Why do these embryos exist in storage?

Embryos conceived through IVF are not all transferred into their mother’s womb when conceived. Those who are not transferred will be cryopreserved to await a transfer at a later time. Sometimes, the opportunity never comes for the embryos to be transferred.

What are the options for these embryos?

Embryos that are not able to be used by the parents that conceived them will be:
1) thawed and discarded which would end their lives
2) given to medical researches which would end their lives
3) remain cryopreserved indefinitely
4) or, if parents can be found who are willing to receive the embryos and transfer them into an adoptive mother’s womb, the embryo may implant and be born!

Why should we care about this mission field of over 1,000,000 embryos?

Embryos are new life. They have all the DNA that make them short, tall, male, female, brown-haired or blue eyed. They are little boys and girls known by God who deserve to have an opportunity for birth and new birth through Holy Baptism! Lutheran Family Service would like to give them that opportunity by finding couples who would be willing! Each of these embryos are unique human beings who deserve the opportunity of birth and to learn and know about God’s love for them.

Who would be an ideal candidate for embryo adoption?

Lutheran Family Service works with couples who are married for at least three years, male / female relationships, active in a Christian Congregation, and are mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. Adoptive mothers must have a physician's certification that she can carry a pregnancy to term. Couples who receive embryos will be selected by couples who conceived the embryos, so they may have specific preferences. It is clear though, that many of those who are looking for a couple to receive their embryos show a preference for couples with no children or only one or two children already. Those with children are not discouraged to apply, but they may wait a bit longer to get matched.

What is the embryo adoption process?

Ideally, a couple would watch a free Embryo Adoption webinar to learn more. If they determine they would like to move forward, they would schedule a face-to-face personal consultation with a team member at Lutheran Family Service. During that time, all areas of adoption that interest them, including embryo adoption, would be discussed.

If a couple determines they want to move forward, it is time to get their doctor involved to be sure that he /she agrees they are a good candidate to do so. Once approved by their doctor, a home study can begin. Also during this time, profile book work will start. Once that is completed, it is time to start the application with Nightlight Christian Adoption (our partner agency). Nightlight will be certain that the couple’s educational process continues. They will then work on a match with a donating couple and set up the legal paperwork that must be done to arrange shipment of the embryos to the couple's clinic.

The doctor will provide expertise in either medically preparing the adoptive mother’s uterus or they will simply wait for the natural cycle. The embryo will be transferred and then it should take about two weeks to know if implantation has taken place.

How long does the process take?

Home studies take 6-8 weeks. Matching can often be done in 6 months or less. Shipping and medical procedures may take 1-2 months. Then, hopefully, another 9 months of pregnancy!

What is the role of Lutheran Family Service in this process?

Lutheran family Service does the home study investigations prior to matching with a donating couple and also completes a post placement visit after a child is born.

How much does embryo adoption cost?

Embryo adoption costs between $13,000-$16,000.

How many embryos should I adopt?

The number of embryos in a sibling group will vary. Couples should select embryo sibling groups based on the number of children they hope to have and the number of transfers they are willing to undergo.

How many births will result?

It is impossible to know if an embryo will implant and a child will be born. It is about a 35% chance each time an embryo is transferred for a successful pregnancy to result.

Will the birth parents know who adopts their embryos?

Yes, the parents who conceived the embryos will have information through the agency or possibility directly with you about the genetic siblings of their children.

Once we adopt the embryos, can the parents take them back?

The process of embryo adoption is a legal property transfer by contract prior to the embryos ever being transferred into the adoptive mother’s uterus. So, unless there are some very unusual or unexpected circumstances, the couple who conceived the embryos could not take them back once a child is born.

What are the next steps?

Contact Kim Laube, Life Services Director, via phone or email at 515-251-4900 or klaube@lutheranfamilyservice.org.