Embryo adoption is the newest method of family-building, which combines assisted reproductive technology with adoption, so that instead of adopting a baby, infertile couples adopt an embryo.
When we perform IVF, young women often produce many eggs, and therefore, many embryos. The supernumerary embryos can be stored, and we do this by freezing them in liquid nitrogen at minus-196 degrees Celsius.
If the parents get pregnant, they often agree to donate their embryos to other infertile couples, to help them to start a family.
Embryo transfer is most often done on an outpatient basis. No anesthesia is used, although some women may wish to have a mild sedative. The patient lies on a table or bed, usually with her feet in stirrups.. Using a vaginal speculum, the doctor exposes the cervix. One or more embryos suspended in a drop of culture medium are drawn into a transfer catheter, a long, thin sterile tube with a syringe on one end. Gently, the doctor guides the tip of the loaded catheter through the cervix and deposits the fluid containing the embryos into the uterine cavity. The procedure should be done with great care and usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes. Some doctors perform the transfer under ultrasound guidance, to ensure proper placement of the embryos in the uterine cavity. Most doctors advise a few hours of bed rest after the transfer.
Most clinics today transfer 2-3 good quality embryos on Day 2 or Day 3.
Embryos are graded according to their appearance and rate of cell-division and good quality embryos are those which have 4-8 cells, of equal size, with clear cytoplasm, and with few fragments. These are called Grade A embryos. Embryos with more fragments are assigned a lower grade, and they usually have a lower chance of implanting . However, the babies which result from these embryos are completely normal, if they do implant successfully.
Biologically , embryo adoption is exactly the same as a traditional adoption , in that the child and the parents have no genetic linkage. However , here the resemblance ends. Whereas with traditional adoption it is a child who is adopted after birth, in embryo adoption the infertile couple adopts an embryo before pregnancy.
However , the sad tragedy is that there are just not enough babies available for adoption. Not only is the demand for adopting babies increasing day by day as infertility becomes more prevalent , the supply of unwanted babies being put up for adoption by the mother has become drastically reduced.
It is ironic that while the technology of contraception and abortion has reduced the availability of adoptable children, assisted reproductive technology now offers a new option to infertile couples. This is the option of embryo adoption.
There are many advantages to embryo adoption. There is no waiting list; and the infertile woman gets to experience the pleasure of pregnancy and birth. This obviously enhances bonding between the infertile couple and the child. Another major advantage is that there is no social stigmata involved ; and the couple does not need to get permission from family members or disapproving in-laws. Also , since these embryos are usually of high quality, the success rates are better than 50% per cycle. The only disadvantage is that the treatment can be quite expensive.