What do we do with unused embryos? Ask Dr. Doyle

QUESTION: “My partner and I recently froze our ‘donation’, and we’re starting to consider embryo creation, storage, and final outcome for each. Is it true we can donate our unused embryos to stem cell research? We may have several unused embryos, right? What are our options to consider?”

Dr. Doyle: Once your eggs are fertilized and the embryos are created, we then store the remainder of the highly graded embryos that you do not transfer into your carrier. Remarkably, thanks to modern “vitrification” freezing techniques that more and more labs are now offering, theses embryos can remain frozen in storage for many years, and when they are ultimately thawed, over 95% will survive and implant just as well as they would have when they were “fresh”.

This means that in many instances, an egg donation cycle results in the formation of more than enough embryos to create all the children that you desire, and excess embryos exist.

If you have such extra frozen embryos, your options are to:

  • Use them
  • Discard them
  • Donate them for scientific or other research
  • Donate them to others who are looking to have children but for whatever reason (usually financial) are unable to create their own embryos.
  • Continue to keep them frozen and renew your decision annually until you ultimately decide what is best.

Embryo donation is an option that more and more couples are considering and navigating.


Ask Dr. Doyle


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