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What Would You Do With Your Unused Embryos?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Great news for the residents of Naperville, Illinois: Plans for a new fertility clinic were approved on Tuesday, in a 7-2 vote by its City Council members in favor of Dr. Randy Morris’s new fertility treatment center in downtown Naperville. Hooray!

Despite all the controversy among its protestors who had moral and philosophical issues with the treatments a fertility clinic would provide in its own backyard—which stirred up a heated debate when I blogged about it last week—dozens of former fertility patients turned out in support of Dr. Morris, wearing blue T-shirts that read, “I support the Naperville Fertility Center,” according to the Tribune's report.

One of the biggest issues raised by some of the protestors is something I’ve thought a lot about myself: What to do with all the unused embryos? After going through my own egg retrieval in September of last year, after which I suffered Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, I delayed my embryo transfer and chose to freeze all 14 of my embryos, which are supposedly of "perfect quality."

I’ve often thought about what I’m going to do with all those leftover embryos, or whatever's left when we're done with IVF. I know what I won’t do: The world doesn’t need another Octomom (who told the Today Show on Wednesday that she's on food stamps and posed topless for $8,000, to help support her 14 children). It actually saddens me, though I know Nadya Suleman made a very conscious choice to implant eight embryos when she already had six kids of her own.

Heck, I worry about how we'd afford two or three kids in this economy—14 kids certainly aren’t in our future.

So what do you do with unused embryos from an IVF cycle? When we signed all the medical forms before my egg retrieval last year, I consented to allowing the fertility clinic to use my information for scientific research. I also paid $850 to store my frozen embryos for the year (yes, one year). When the time comes to decide what to do with our unused embryos—though we're not there yet—I’ll probably choose to donate them to science for stem-cell research. It's something I’m still considering...

Donating our embryos to another infertile couple is not something we’d probably consider, however, as selfless as I think that is. To be honest, I was actually a little torn on the issue when we first decided to do this, and raised the question with my husband (who thought I was nuts for suggesting it). There’s a part of me that sees embryo donation as a form of adoption—but since I have no intention of putting my kids up for adoption, why would I choose to do that with our biological embryos? It's not exactly the same thing, but ultimately it's not something I'm comfortable doing for my own personal reasons.

It's a very private and personal choice—going through IVF, choosing to adopt, all of it—it's not black and white by any means. People who choose to donate their embryos for adoption are doing a wonderful thing in my opinion. People who choose to donate their embryos to science, or discard them altogether, have every right to make that decision for themself. Infertility is a complicated disease, as I've learned the hard way. There's nothing about this process that's easy; especially all the forks in the road that come with such a journey. I wish I didn't have to consider any of these options.

What have you done, or would you do, with your unused embryos? Would you ever consider donating them for adoption?

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