A donor embryo is an embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) using a donor egg and donor sperm. When the embryo has reached a mature and viable stage of development, it can be implanted into a recipient’s uterus. This viable stage typically occurs between 5 and 6 days after the donor egg has been fertilized by a donor sperm.
After IVF (fertilization that occurs outside of a woman’s body), the fertilized egg undergoes a number of cell divisions and differentiations in a specialized embryonic lab environment. During this period of division, the fertilized egg forms a blastocyst, a ball of cells consisting of an inner cell mass surrounded by an outer cell layer called the trophoblast. The trophoblast attaches the embryo to the uterine lining, while the inner cell mass will eventually develop into the fetus.
Two Types of Donor Embryos
A traditional donor embryo
A traditional donor embryo refers to an embryo donated by fertility patients who have completed their families after their own IVF journey. They have embryos remaining that they wish to donate to others trying to grow their families.
Success rates for pregnancy and a live birth with a traditional embryo donation depend on the quality of the embryos at the time they were frozen.
A donor embryo created with an egg donor and donor sperm
A second type of donor embryo is an embryo created by an intended parent(s) using selected egg and sperm donors. The selected donor egg is fertilized by the selected donor sperm. These embryos are generally created from eggs from donors 21 to 32 years of age who have completed comprehensive medical, genetic, and psychological screenings.
The quality of these embryos is generally higher than traditional donor embryos due to the age requirement and extensive screenings. These factors increase the chance of success for an on-going pregnancy and live birth.
There are only a select number of programs in the country that create donor embryos using donor eggs and donor sperm. One such clinic is Atlantic Shared Beginnings (ASB) in Raleigh, North Carolina. The unique programs offered at ASB are outlined below.
Who uses donor embryos?
Individuals and couples who are unable to achieve pregnancy using their own eggs and sperm may use donor embryos to overcome particular fertility challenges.
Egg and sperm donors typically follow this IVF cycle that results in donor embryos for an intended parent(s):
- Ovarian Stimulation – Before IVF can occur, a woman will take a series of medications designed to help stimulate as many healthy eggs as possible at one time.
- Egg Retrieval – Eggs are retrieved and are stored until insemination takes place.
- Insemination – Using sperm from a partner or a donor, an embryologist inseminates the eggs and places them in an incubator.
- Vitrification – Five to six days after fertilization, any blastocysts that are formed are cryopreserved using vitrification (a special freezing process) until the recipient is ready for the embryo to be placed in her uterus.
What criteria need to be met for a donor embryo implantation in a uterus?
Fertility clinics may use different criteria to determine whether an embryo is ready to implant, but fertility specialists typically consider the following factors:
- Number of cells: A healthy embryo should have between 50 and 120 cells at the blastocyst stage.
- Morphology: The embryo should be spherical, symmetrical, and show no signs of abnormalities.
- Division: The embryo should be dividing at a regular rate and not be showing any signs of arrested development.
- Fragmentation: The embryo should not have any fragments of cells detached from the main structure.
If an embryo meets all of the criteria above, it can be selected for implantation in a recipient’s uterus.
Who is a good candidate for receiving a donor embryo?
Factors that increase pregnancy success rates with donor embryos include:
- Quality of embryos: Transferring a high-quality embryo, as determined by factors like number of cells, morphology, division, and fragmentation, increases the chances of a successful pregnancy.
- Healthy uterine lining: A receptive uterine lining is essential for embryo implantation. Women with a healthy uterine lining are more likely to successfully implant a donor embryo.
- Absence of uterine abnormalities: Uterine abnormalities, such as fibroids or polyps, can interfere with embryo implantation and increase the risk of miscarriage. Addressing any underlying uterine issues can improve implantation rates.
- Favorable cervical mucus: Cervical mucus can play a role in embryo implantation. Healthy cervical mucus is alkaline, thin, and slippery, providing an ideal environment for embryos.
Factors that may decrease donor embryo success rates:
- Underlying medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and uterine fibroids, can interfere with embryo implantation. Addressing these conditions may improve implantation rates.
- Previous failed IVF cycles: If a patient has experienced multiple unsuccessful IVF cycles, these unsuccessful cycles may indicate underlying factors that could affect embryo development or implantation. Addressing these factors can increase the likelihood of success with subsequent cycles.
- Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact fertility and reduce the chances of successful pregnancy with IVF. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can improve overall reproductive health and support implantation.
In sum, donor embryo success rates vary depending on individual circumstances. A fertility specialist can assess each patient’s unique factors and provide personalized guidance on a patient’s chances of success with donor embryos.
Do all fertility clinics offer a donor embryo program?
No. There are only a small number of third-party programs in the United States that offer individuals and couples programs to create embryos using donor eggs.
For example, in Raleigh, North Carolina, Atlantic Shared Beginnings (ASB) is a specialized third-party reproductive agency that works closely with Atlantic Reproductive Medicine, a fertility clinic, to assist individuals and couples who need the help of donor eggs or donor embryos, fertilized by partner sperm or donor sperm, in order to achieve their dream of building a family.
Atlantic Shared Beginnings is located within the fertility clinic of Atlantic Reproductive Medicine and works closely with this highly reputable medical clinic to make donor embryos possible for many hopeful individuals and couples.
With ASB’s Embryo Creation program, the intended parent(s) create their desired embryo by selecting an egg donor from ASB’s egg donor database and a sperm donor from one of the agency’s partnering sperm banks.
The intended parents’ embryos are created at the embryology lab at Atlantic Reproductive Medicine (ARMS). The embryos in this program are high-quality PGT-A tested embryos.
When the embryo is ready for transfer, the transfer can occur at the Atlantic Reproductive Medicine fertility clinic, or the embryo can be shipped to the recipients’ local fertility clinic.
With ASB’s Embryo Selection program, the intended parent(s) select an embryo from Atlantic’s embryo database. The embryos in this program have already been created using donor eggs and donor sperm and are ready for selection by an intended parent(s).
The selected embryo transfer can occur at the Atlantic Reproductive Medicine fertility clinic, or the selected embryo can be shipped to the recipients’ local fertility clinic for transfer there.
How should an individual or couple research and select a donor embryo program?
Individuals or couples looking for a highly-reputable donor embryo program should consider:
- Seeking a referral from their trusted obgyn specialist
- Asking a trusted friend who has worked with a clinic and agency
- Conducting careful internet research, including website patient reviews
The ASB Difference
At Atlantic Shared Beginnings, embryos are created in the clinic’s state-of-the-art embryology lab at Atlantic Reproductive Medicine with the expertise of highly experienced embryologists.
Atlantic Shared Beginning’s partnership with Atlantic Reproductive Medicine makes this clinic uniquely positioned to offer the best in pregnancy and family-building programs to those needing donor eggs or embryos to grow their families with the highest screening criteria for egg donors and the best medical services for donors and recipients.
Atlantic Shared Beginnings is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and serves patients from all over the state, region, country, and world. ASB offers complimentary consultations. They can be contacted here for more information: https://sharedbeginnings.life/.