What is Embryo Donation?
Embryo donation is the scientific and medical process of preserving embryos. Embryos are obtained from a suitable donor and then transferred to a suitable recipient.
Why do we need to donate embryos?
All couples may be unable to conceive using the general conventional procedure. There might be several explanations for this. Infertility can be caused by a low egg reserve in females and a lack of sperm production in males. There is also the chance of diminished fertility as one gets older. If a couple has medical issues, genetic disorders, or hereditary medical concerns, they may choose to use the embryo donation and transfer procedure to conceive. There are various non-conventional pregnancy options, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). But if all of them fail, a couple may elect to embrace embryo donation. In the event of IVF success, extra embryos may be produced and donated for the time being.
Embryo donation can sever three purposes: -
1. General embryo donation- Embryos can be donated to an infertile couple who has the desire to conceive. Most such couples can’t get pregnant normally.
2. Antenatal adoption- some donors may donate embryos only with the concerned couple that can be their relative and genetically linked most of the time.
3. Embryo donation for science- Embryo donation for research and scientific study can help professionals and scientists. It can help in understanding the field of embryonic development. It can also improve the existing medical techniques and methods in non-conventional pregnancies.
What medical procedure is involved in it?
Doctors perform some tests and ultrasounds to ensure the donor's health and medical profile. Some medicines have been injected that result in multiple follicles growth in ovaries. It makes egg harvesting easier.
Under light sedation, a hollow needle and catheter are used to collect one egg at a time through the wall of the vagina. The guidance is through ultrasound imaging.
How are embryos prepared?
Unfertilized eggs are fertilized with sperm from the partner or some anonymous sperm donor. The process is carefully performed by a skilled embryologist. The embryos are grown on the petri dish for five to seven days. It is then later tested for the presence of any disease or genetic effect. The embryos are graded. A higher grade means higher success in the process of getting pregnant.
How are embryos preserved?
Embryos are thawed for preservation The embryos with high grades are frozen. This process is called vitrification. A protectant fluid in place of water is used. Freezing is performed by using liquid nitrogen. The absence of water is necessary so that during the freezing process, no ice crystals are formed. Ice crystals can potentially harm the cell. It can also cause embryo or cell death before the procedure of implantation.
What are the possible risk factors?
The risks are multiple and are listed below: -
- It may lead to personal pregnancy in the donor
- The recipient may get an infection or disease if the donor denies getting tested
Are there any possible complications?
Some of them are discussed below: -
- The entire process can be very tiresome and stressful. It takes time and patience.
- Some procedures may involve some level of discomfort
- A lack of donor knowledge can create confusion and doubts
- It is a tedious process including multiple steps, some of which include medical procedures, and hence proper care and rest are needed for both the donor and recipient
Embryo donation is the process in which eggs are collected from the donor. Collected eggs are then fertilized with sperm. The fertilized sperm are grown into embryos. It can later be transferred to the recipient. It is a lengthy process. It requires patience, guidance, and counseling. It may include a few risks but it has a success rate.
The appropriate suggested female age for embryo donation is less than 36 years.
All the donors are anonymous and protected by Law 14/2006 regarding Assisted Human Reproduction.
Reports are suggesting that the successful pregnancy rate is quite promising with donated embryo transfer techniques and they further improve with the increased number of attempts. From the first attempt, the rate can go around 40-45% and they significantly can reach up to 90% on the patients’ third or fourth attempt.
The donor must be tested against all communicable diseases like HIV, hepatitis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc. Also, other tests stating the donor’s complete medical history are performed but, in some cases, the donor may decide to deny going through such tests, and hence, recipients are made aware of possible infections and disease transmissions, in case.
Like donors, Recipients are undergone full medical check-ups. A complete medical history is drawn stating the blood group, Rh factor, sexually transmitted infection and diseases, and some other health conditions. Professionals are present for guiding and preparing the recipient mentally for the procedure. Counselling is provided to them.