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FAQ for Recipients: Embryo Donation Program

What is embryo donation?

Embryo donation occurs when a patient or couple donates remaining embryos from a successful IVF cycle to another patient or couple, so that the recipients can have a baby of their own. The embryos are transferred to the recipient mother's uterus. The resulting child is genetically related to the donors, yet is carried and raised by the recipient parents.

The UCSF Embryo Donation Program serves our patients in two important ways. For recipients, we are able to provide another family-building option to our fertility patients. For donors, we are able to provide our former IVF patients with a very special option for the disposition of their unused embryos.

Who can receive donated embryos?

Embryo recipients must be or have been patients at the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health. Your doctor will help you decide whether or not you are a good candidate. Embryo donation is a cheaper option than traditional IVF.

Patients who might consider embryo donation include those with male and female factor infertility, previous failed treatments, or very low chances of success with other fertility treatments.

How are embryo donors screened?

Donors are carefully screened by our Embryo Donation Program team. In screening donors, we adhere to guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and to UCSF's institutional ethics board. To determine if embryos are eligible for donation, the UCSF team reviews the patient's chart and the laboratory information to determine if the embryos can be offered to potential recipients.

Screening factors include patient's psychological readiness to make a donation, family genetic history and age of the female donor. The egg donor's age must have been 39 or younger at the time when the embryos developed.

Full screening includes:

  • Detailed review of health, medical history and fertility history
  • Detailed review of cycle characteristics and embryo quality
  • Screening laboratory tests to rule out presence of infectious diseases such as HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, gonorrhea and chlamydia
  • Genetic screening for family history of birth defects or hereditary diseases via a comprehensive family history intake and assessment, if possible
  • Genetic testing for blood type, cystic fibrosis and hemoglobinopathies, and other genetic testing as appropriate — please refer to the embryo donor genetic counseling letter for details
  • Psychological screening, including in-person interview

To assess these factors, each patient meets with our team psychologist to discuss their decision to donate, their background and history, meets with our genetic counselor to review family genetic history — embryo donors may not have any serious genetic diseases — and takes a set of screening blood and saliva tests.

Our careful screening process is the cornerstone of our program, yet there are limits to routine screening. We cannot guarantee the success of the thawing and transfer process, nor can we guarantee the health of any child that might result from the donation.

We offer all recipients the opportunity to meet with the program's genetic counselor to review the embryo donors' family history, genetic testing status and other optional genetic tests.

What information will I receive about my embryo donors?

You will receive lots of information about the donors and their background, including physical characteristics — such as height and hair and eye color — ethnic background, blood type, family medical and genetic history, educational background and personality characteristics. Some donors also share photographs of themselves or their children.

Can I meet the donors?

Embryo donors are often open to meeting the recipients. If patients would like to meet the donors, our coordinator, Sandra Abdel-Ramirez, can arrange this with willing donors.

What are your success rates?

Because our embryo donation program is new, we have limited data to offer statistics of success rates. However, we estimate that the success rate will be similar to that of frozen embryo transfer in our general practice — about 30 to 40 percent per cycle.

How much does it cost?

The estimated total costs for an embryo donation cycle are approximately $5,000 to $6,000. Full payment is due prior to thawing of the embryos.

How does the waitlist process work?

At UCSF, we currently have more recipients waiting for embryos than available embryos, so there is a waitlist. There is no cost to adding your name to the waitlist, so you can join the waitlist even if you're not sure embryo donation is right for you. Please note that only UCSF Center for Reproductive Health patients may place their names on the waitlist.

Although we encourage donors to be open to helping the next recipient on our waitlist, donors are permitted to make personal matching restrictions regarding marital status, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Therefore, the waitlist may be longer for certain patients depending on the requests of the particular donors we are working with at that time.

Once we offer you an embryo, you have 30 days to submit a non-refundable deposit of $500 for a frozen embryo transfer cycle, and an additional 90 days to begin your cycle. If you decline to go forward with the embryos offered, we will proceed to the next recipient on the waitlist. You may retain your place on the waitlist for the next 12 months.

If you decide you are no longer interested in receiving embryos, please let our coordinator know. Having an up-to-date waitlist helps us give interested recipients better estimates of their wait time.

Once you submit the $500 deposit, you will have access to all the embryos available from that donor until you achieve a pregnancy and deliver a baby. If you do not become pregnant using a donor embryo, you may ask to be placed back on the waitlist.

If you deliver a baby, you may also choose to retain any remaining embryos for future use. To do so, you must pay storage fees for the embryos. If you no longer desire the remaining embryos, we will offer them to another patient.

How do I know if embryo donation is right for me?

Recipients and donors must understand that, someday, children born from embryo donation may want more information about their genealogy or genetic health history. In addition, some children may want to meet the donors and their families. It is important for recipient parents to consider how they might feel about these possibilities. Also, parents who do not share this information run the risk of their child finding out accidentally or from someone else.

Embryo donation is relatively new terrain, and there is much we still do not know about its long-term psychological, social and legal implications. While this is an ongoing area of active research, it is important for patients to enter the process as well informed as possible.

Both donors and recipients must understand that the recipients will be the parents of any child who may be born, even though the child will be genetically related to the donors. Children born from embryo donation will derive their innate traits from the donors, yet the recipients will raise the child, and thus will provide the nurturing environment in which the child will grow and develop.

What are the legal implications?

Donors sign a consent form stating that at the time of the transfer, they are relinquishing all rights and responsibilities regarding their embryos. There are no laws in California concerning embryo donation, but recent court decisions suggest that in the case of donated eggs and sperm, the recipient parents will be recognized as the legal parents. We encourage you to consult your own attorney with further legal concerns.

How can I learn more?

The Embryo Donation Team is available to help you should you have any questions or concerns. You can also learn more by visiting the websites for the American Fertility Association or Resolve, The National Infertility Association.

If you would like to be placed on the waitlist or confirm your place, please discuss it with your doctor and call Sandra Abdel-Ramirez at (415) 885-3590.

Our Embryo Donation Team

Sandra Abdel-Ramirez, screening and matching coordination
Allison Chamberlaine, cycle coordination
Lauri Pasch, psychologist
Dr. Victor Fujimoto, medical director


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.