Options for embryos after IVF 

If a patient has gone through the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process and has embryos that remain cryopreserved in a Shady Grove Fertility (SGF) laboratory, there may come a time when they no longer need to continue storing them. Usually, this is because a patient feels their family is complete.  

“At Shady Grove Fertility, patients may choose to store embryos with us indefinitely, but there will likely reach a point where that is no longer the optimal choice for them and their family,” shares Benjamin Harris, M.D., M.P.H., who provides patient care at SGF’s Richmond and Norfolk locations. “We want to make sure all patients are informed and educated about their options for disposition, when the time is right.” 

SGF patients have several options when they are ready to discontinue storage. 

Donate embryos to another patient 

There are always patients in need of healthy embryos to complete their family. Embryo donation can bring a sense of pride in helping another couple achieve their dream of bringing home a baby. Embryo Options, SGF’s partner for cryopreservation billing and education, has developed a unique Embryo Donation website to allow patients the option to donate their embryos to SGF for the purpose of trying to help another patient achieve a pregnancy. 

The process begins with donors building de-identified profiles which include information about geographical location, physical characteristics, race, religion, and education. Expanded profiles also include information about a donor’s embryos, medical history, personal story, and embryo donation special conditions. Potential recipients can then view these de-identified donor profiles to help decide if accepting a donor embryo is right for them. 

“SGF believes everyone has the right to build their family, which is why we encourage patients to consider embryo donation,” shares Dr. Harris. “This is especially important in the African-American community, where couples seeking Black donor embryos are typically waiting more three years to match. We want to educate our patients about these shortages in the hope it inspires them to consider giving the gift of life.” 

Donate embryos to science 

Donating embryos to Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research (HESC) is an option for patients who would like to aid science in finding new ways to treat disease, but it’s important to be well informed before choosing this option. The powerful impulse to give back to society and to help others can make donating to research a morally satisfying choice for many families. Patients are responsible for finding a study and contacting the research team to explore donation options. 

Thaw and discard embryos 

Thawing and discarding your embryos is another alternative to continuing to store your embryos. This process involves a member of the IVF laboratory withdrawing your embryos from a liquid nitrogen tank, and then letting your embryos thaw without transferring them into culture media. The embryo(s) will cease to develop and be discarded in an ethical and biologically appropriate manner. Alternatively, patients can retain their embryos and discard in a way that is personal and meaningful to them. 

“We want our patients to feel empowered to make the best decision for them and their families, acknowledging that there are many factors to consider when taking these final steps of their journey with SGF,” shares Dr. Harris. “We are always here to answer questions and will support our patients throughout the process.” 

For all  of these options, we advise patients to take the time needed to consider what choice is right for them. For more information, log in to your Embryo Options account or contact your SGF clinical team. 

Medical contribution by Benjamin S. Harris, M.D., M.P.H.

Benjamin S. Harris, M.D., M.P.H., is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and board eligible in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). Passionate about educating patients and helping them understand the concepts underlying their unique set of reproductive circumstances, Dr. Harris sees patients at SGF Richmond’s Stony Point and Henrico Doctors’ – Forest location, as well as SGF Jones Institute in Norfolk.