Embryo Adoption

A Unique and Viable Adoption Choice

Embryo adoption occurs when families with remaining frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) give the embryos to a family choosing to adopt them. The adoptive mother has the embryos transferred into the her own womb in hopes of achieving pregnancy – and nine months later – give birth to her adopted child!

This article was graciously provided by Adam Bohlmeyer, Clinic Liaison, Nightlight, Inc.


The process of embryo adoption was pioneered under the leadership of Nightlight Christian Adoptions in 1997. Nightlight, providing adoption services since 1959, looked at the best practices of the adoption process and applied them to the current medical procedure of using donor embryos to achieve pregnancy. Nightlight named this new adoption division the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and celebrated the birth of the 300th adopted Snowflake baby in March 2012!

Since 1997, the practice of embryo adoption has continued to expand yearly. There are now eight adoption agencies and 200 clinics across the country offering embryo donation and adoption services.

Where Do Donor Embryos Come From?

When families go through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) a woman’s eggs are combined with a man’s sperm outside of the human body to create embryos. These embryos will be transferred into the woman’s uterus in an attempt to achieve pregnancy. Frequently, more embryos are created than are actually transferred on the fresh (non-frozen) IVF cycle. The remaining embryos are frozen and stored for future use.

When a family has completed their family building process, often they will have remaining embryos in frozen storage forcing a difficult decision. Disposition options for these embryos include

  1. Keeping them in frozen storage indefinitely
  2. Destroying them
  3. Surrendering the embryos for medical research
  4. Donating the remaining embryos to another family for use in achieving a pregnancy
This fourth option is encouraged by Nightlight.

What Is the Process of Embryo Adoption?

The first step in this process is to check with an OB/Gyn to make sure the adoptive mother is able to carry a pregnancy to term. This is a requirement to work with this type of adoption program.

Next, the family will need to select an agency to work with, complete their application and an adoption home study assessment.

After a home study assessment is finished, the matching process begins. Embryo donors and adopters are matched by the agency based on prerequisites specified by the families. The families are able to review profile information presented to them by the agency.

Once a match is made, legal contracts are signed between the donor and adoptive family, officially transferring ownership of the embryos to the adopting family.

The next steps are for the adopting family to begin the medical procedures leading to a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) where embryos are thawed and transferred into the adopting woman’s womb.

Advantages of Embryo Adoption

This is a unique adoption process and has some advantages over domestic or international adoption.

  • An embryo costs between $8,000-$12,000
  • Embryo adoption allows adoptive parents to experience pregnancy.
  • The bonding process with a child begins before the child is even born.
  • And of course there is the excitement (as well as travails) of childbirth!

For more information on embryo adoption, including educational videos, extensive FAQ's, and a list of programs across the nation, please visit www.embryoadoption.org. This article was written by Adam Bohlmeyer, Clinic Liaison, Nightlight, Inc. and Embryo Adoption Awareness Center.

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