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What is embryo donation and how does it work?

Qué es la embriodonación

In recent years, the delay in the age to become a mother has meant that many women over 35 years old need to turn to egg donation to achieve their dream. However, there are also cases in which, whether due to infertility problems in the male partner, because they want to be a single mum by choice or in same sex female couples, a male donor is also required.

In these situations you can opt for in vitro fertilisation with both donor eggs and donor sperm, or for embryo donation, a technique which is also known as embryo adoption. In the following article we explain what it consists of and how is it performed.


Embryo donation is an assisted reproduction treatment in which a women receives one or several embryos that have been fertilised in a laboratory. These embryos come from other couples who, after they have successfully become pregnant, decide to donate them so that other people can achieve their dream. To do this, they must sign an agreement that they renounce any claims to the future baby that the recipient mother may gestate.

This process should not be confused with egg or sperm donation, with the main difference being that donated embryos are already formed.

This process is completely legal in Spain and is tightly regulated the Law in Assisted Reproduction, where it is stipulated that the anonymity of the recipient parents of the donated embryos must be maintained, so that the donors do not know the identity of the recipients, nor vice versa. It is a completely anonymous and altruistic act in which no economic compensation is received.


Once the embryos from the donor couple have been fertilised, they are vitrified using a process of flash freezing in liquid nitrogen at -196°C, preserving their all their quality and properties. When a couple decide they do not wish to have any more children, they have the possibility of donating these embryos to another women who needs them. Embryo selection is carried out by taking into account the physical attributes of the couple or woman who donated the embryos, and the couple or woman who adopt the embryos.

However, it must be borne in mind that not all women who have frozen embryos can donate them. To be able to donate, the donor woman must be less than 35 years old when the fertilization was performed, and not have any risk of infectious or genetic diseases.

Once the embryos have been selected, the process of embryo donation begins, which follows the following steps:

  1. The endometrium of the recipient is prepared so that the uterus is in optimum conditions for implantation.
  2. Embryo thawing.
  3. Embryo transfer is performed, a simple procedure in which the embryos are placed directly into the uterus so that they can implant and develop correctly.
  4. Ten days later, the pregnancy test is done, to confirm if the implantation has been successful.
  5. Approximately two weeks later, the first ultrasound will be done to check on the progress of the pregnancy and its location.
  6. Once the patient has been discharged, they should continue to be monitored with the required pregnancy controls.


Embryo donation can be a good option for those cases in which couples present with fertility problems, independently of whether it is due to the male or the female. It is also good for women who wish to become single mums by choice, or in same sex female relationships where there is a problem with fertility or their age is over 40.

It is a good alternative to double donation treatments, where both donor sperm and donor eggs are used. This is because not only is it a less expensive procedure, it also has a high success rate due to the fact that usually only the best quality embryos are frozen. Futhermore, it is important to remember that other embryos from the same cycle have given rise to the birth of a healthy baby, which is precisely why they are being donated.


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