Washington, D.C. Not only did Virginia couple, Natalie and Jon meet and fall in love online, but they also learned of a new option to start their long-awaited family by researching online. For this young couple, the solution to overcoming infertility came in the form of embryo donation—a relatively new and increasingly popular, unique and cost-effective family building alternative.
“The great news is, given the technological advancements in the last decade surrounding in vitro fertilization (IVF), the efficiency of our IVF cycles continues to increase and couples are often building their family from one fresh cycle and subsequent frozen embryo transfers (FETs). FETs offer numerous benefits—for the couple who completed the fresh IVF cycle, FETs extend the chance of pregnancy per egg retrieval, ultimately saving time and money. And when embryos remain after the couple’s family is complete, they have the option to donate high quality embryos through embryo donation,” said Naveed Khan, M.D., Natalie and Jon’s reproductive endocrinologist who sees patients in Shady Grove Fertility’s Leesburg, VA office.
“We longed for a baby but questioned whether we could justify the cost of IVF when there were so many children waiting for a forever family. However, every adoption route we looked into didn’t seem like a good fit either,” recalls Natalie of Northern VA.
In 2018, nearly half of all fresh IVF cycles going to transfer at Shady Grove Fertility resulted in high quality day five or six blastocyst-stage embryo(s) available for freezing. “The success rates of an FET cycle are comparable to fresh IVF cycles—and sometimes result in a higher success rate because of the opportunity to optimize the lining of the uterus before implantation, among other reasons. Both fresh and frozen cycles have the same primary indicator for success: the maternal age at the time of embryo freezing,” explains Khan.
“After our wedding, we were so excited to start a family. We knew it might take a while because I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as a teenager and never had regular cycles,” recalls Natalie whose husband was diagnosed with severe male factor infertility shortly after they started fertility treatment. “After unsuccessful treatments with a urologist, multiple failed intrauterine insemination cycles (IUIs), and feeling abandoned by our first fertility specialist who retired mid-cycle, we were at a loss,” adds Natalie. “Until … I learned about embryo donation. I had never heard of it before, but the more we thought and prayed about how to grow our family, the more the idea grew on us. We realized that what was important to us in having children was love, not genetics,” adds Natalie.
Natalie and Jon were determined to investigate embryo donation further, ultimately finding few centers even offered embryo donation, and some that did either didn’t return calls or had a two-year waiting list. “Finally, I felt some relief, Shady Grove Fertility responded to me quickly, and the best part was that they had many embryos available with no wait list! Before our first appointment, I was nervous that the doctor would judge us for wanting to use donor embryosinstead of doing IVF; however, Dr. Khan was nothing but kind. He respected our convictions and didn’t ask us to defend our choice. He was happy to help us start our family through embryo donation,” adds Natalie.
The SGF Donor Embryo Program allows intended parents to choose two embryos from a couple. “When choosing our donors, we didn’t know their identity, but we were still given lots of information such as age, ethnicity, height, eye/hair color, medical history, and even childhood pictures of the donors. Before we knew it, embryo transfer day was here,” recalls Natalie.
Two weeks later, the couple received the news they were pregnant and gave birth to a boy in May. “We are so thankful for Dr. Khan and the SGF donor embryo program,” adds Natalie. “In the beginning, I was worried what people would think if I gave birth to a child that didn’t look like us and how we would explain embryo donation to our kids. In our experience, people are usually curious and supportive when we talk about it. Embryo donation is a beautiful gift that should be celebrated,” said Natalie.
SGF offers two financial programs that give intended parents options, including their hallmark Shared Risk 100% Refund Program, which offers patients the opportunity to pursue treatment without the worry of cost verses chances of success. “In other programs, in order to try again, you have to pay again. With Shady Grove Fertility’s Shared Risk, patients may attempt up to six embryo donation cycles for a flat fee. When you take a baby, our center has earned its fee. In the event the attempts are not successful, we give a full refund,” shares Michele Purcell, R.N., M.H.A., Director of Specialty Programs at SGF.
“SGF is excited to offer embryo donation to recipients, in addition to giving patients the option to donate their excess embryos to someone else. Feedback from those that have chosen to donate their embryos is always so positive and rewarding,” said Purcell.
To learn more about donating embryos created at SGF, or to inquire about SGF’s Embryo Donation Program, please contact Alethia Woodley, SGF’s Donor Embryo Coordinator, by phone 301-545-1230 or by email [email protected].