Decisions about remaining embryos after IVF
During each IVF cycle, the number of embryos that are created in the laboratory can vary greatly from person to person. Some have only one for transfer, while others end up having embryos frozen and stored for the future. What happens when you decide to finish treatment and you still have frozen embryos in storage?
The fate of remaining embryos is usually not considered when you begin your fertility treatment journey, and many people can often feel overwhelmed or conflicted when it comes time to making these decisions. At Flinders Fertility, there are several options you can consider:
- Embryos can be kept in storage for future use, provided the annual fee continues to be paid. In South Australia, there are currently no restrictions with regards to the length of time that embryos can be stored. At Flinders Fertility, embryos can remain in storage with us until the woman who would undergo the embryo transfer reaches the age of 51 (the average age of menopause). During this time, we send out an annual storage letter to ensure we continue to honour your wishes and inform you as to when the storage time limit is approaching.
- You can also select to cease the storage of your frozen embryos. In this case, Flinders Fertility will thaw your embryos and allow them to succumb. We also offer the option for you to take your thawed embryos home upon request, as some people like do something special to acknowledge the significance of those embryos.
Alternatively, you have the option to donate your excess embryos to another couple (someone you know or to an unknown recipient), providing the embryos are suitable for donation. Another possible option is to donate your remaining embryos to scientific research or for quality control and training purposes. At this stage, Flinders Fertility is not able to offer these options and therefore in this situation we advise you get in touch with clinics that offer an embryo donation service or have a research program. They will provide you with additional information if necessary as some clinics may place restrictions on the embryos they receive (i.e. embryo age, family history etc.). Donating excess embryos can carry emotional and legal implications, so we also recommend you see a fertility counsellor, and seek medical and legal advice that is specific to your situation.
If you struggle to reach a decision, VARTA (Victorian Assisted Reproductive Technology Authority) have some useful resources available: What to do with unused embryos and have also developed a tool that aims to assist you with decision-making regarding your excess embryos: What to do with unused embryos - Decision tool. If you are still uncertain and finding this an emotional time, we encourage you to come and see our experienced counsellor to explore these options further.