Helping women touched by cancer become mothers.
Embryo Donation

For cancer survivors who want to experience pregnancy and childbirth, yet are unable to do so with their own eggs, embryo adoption and embryo donation are two viable options.  Compared to egg donation, embryo donation is often much less expensive, but sometimes carries restrictions based on religious preference, sexual orientation or marital status.

Infertile couples create embryos (fertilized eggs) when they go through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Since only 1-4 fresh embryos are transferred into a woman’s uterus at a time, the extra embryos are frozen and saved for future use. When couples complete their family, they often have frozen embryos leftover; yet do not want to discard them.  In fact, different states even have specific laws regarding what may be done with these embryos, including whether or not they can be donated to science for research.

Cancer survivors can adopt or have embryos donated to them. There are two types of embryo donation:

  1. Anonymous donation – offered to patients by many IVF clinics.  The clinic is responsible for matching donors with recipients, trying to match characteristics such as hair and eye color, height, weight and ethnicity as closely as possible.
  2. Known donation – the donor couple is actively involved in the selection of the recipient.  Information about the couples is typically shared and pictures may be exchanged and even face-to-face meetings may occur.


In many states, embryo donation is considered a legal transfer of property but the laws vary from state to state.  Few states allow embryo donation and even fewer permit donor reimbursement. Some states have no statutes regarding the issue and some, such as Florida, specifically allow it.

Embryo Adoption

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are similar but not the same, although the terms are often used interchangeably.  Embryo adoption may be viewed in much the same way as an ordinary adoption.  The couple giving up the embryos may want detailed input as to where they are placed and may even ask for future contact with the baby after birth.  A home study/family evaluation will also be required in cases where the process is termed as an adoption but not where it is considered a donation. It’s important for a cancer survivor to choose a home study agency that is proven ‘cancer friendly’.   Use this link to locate an agency and ask about their requirements regarding cancer survivors:

Embryo adoption is not recognized as a legal classification in any state except for Georgia, and the term is typically used in referring only to the procedural elements involved in the transfer.  The legal aspects between embryo adoption and embryo donation can be significant. Adoption is granted by the Courts, and only after a child is born.  Embryo donation processes are, however, regulated under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration.

This is a relatively new field and many questions regarding legalities remain unanswered.  Fertile Action highly recommends retaining a specialist attorney experienced in the area of assisted reproduction.  You can find an attorney by visiting the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) located in your state.

While costs for the process may vary significantly, here are some guidelines:

  • Agency fee – $2,500 to $10,000.  This may include legal fees, matching and shipping fees, medical screening and counseling services
  • Frozen embryo transfer – $2,500 to $5,000
  • Legal fees – $3,000 to $4,500
  • Home study fees (For embryo adoptions only) – $1,000 to $2,500


Donating families are generally not compensated monetarily, although after a match is made, reimbursements may be made for storage, shipping and legal fees.  Some states specifically prohibit reimbursement to donors.  If medical expenses are included in the agency fees, the recipient will likely have to utilize a specific clinic.  Other agency programs allow you to choose your own doctor and clinic.

Visit our resource section for a list of embryo donation agencies or visit the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center for more information.

Please check out Fertile Action’s list of resources for further information and register for our financial aid programs.