Embryo donation is a well-established and successful form of assisted conception treatment. It offers hope for select groups of couples who previously thought they could never have children. Embryo donation is usually less expensive and has a fewer medical complications compared to in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The success of embryo donation compares favorably with egg donation. Relatively few countries have legislation addressing embryo donation. Legislation governing embryo donation varies between different countries and even within the same countries such as in the USA and Australia, where it varies from state to state. Embryo donation is a legally accepted form of treatment in the United Kingdom.
It is important that both the donor and recipient couples be adequately counseled, screened and made aware of the psychological, moral and legal implications of embryo donation before being accepted onto the program.
All infertility clinics offering embryo donation should observe strict rules of confidentiality and anonymity and take account of the welfare of any child who may born as a result of embryo donation as well as the welfare of any other children who may be affected by the birth.
Most IVF clinics offering embryo donations in the United Kingdom have a waiting lists for a year or longer.
To whom embryo donation is advised?
There are selected groups of patients to whom embryo donation is recommended.
When both partners are infertile
The female partner has a uterus but her ovaries do not produce eggs due to premature menopause (affects 1-2% of women under the age of 40) or she has had her ovaries removed as a treatment for cancer, pelvic infection or endometriosis. Women whose ovaries were damaged by chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, who are born without functioning ovaries (e.g. Turner's Syndrome), or whose ovaries are resistant to stimulation by the pituitary hormones, so-called 'resistant ovarian syndrome'.
The male partner has either a very poor sperm or no sperm in his ejaculate. This could be due to vasectomy, testicular damage by chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, he might has been born without functioning testicles, etc.
Couples who are at a high risk of passing on genetic disorders to their offspring
This group includes women who are carriers of sex-linked diseases such as hemophilia, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s chorea. Couples with recurrent pregnancy loss due to chromosomal abnormalities. Although antenatal fetal diagnosis is available for an increasing number of these conditions, termination of pregnancy remains unacceptable to many couples. Recent advances in preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has enabled couples to undergo IVF, preimplantation embryo biopsy and then transfer normal embryos. However the high cost and complexity of this procedure put it beyond the means of many couples.
Women with recurrent IVF failures
This could be due to poor response to stimulation by fertility drugs, failure of egg collections or poor egg quality. Older women who have poorly functioning ovaries and whose chance of achieving a live birth using their own eggs are slim are good candidate for receiving donated embryos if their male partner is subfertile.