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Using donated embryos in your treatment

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An image of an embryoHow are donated embryos used?

Embryos can be donated by people who have completed their fertility treatment or by those who cannot use them in their own treatment.

The donated embryos are transferred to the recipient.

Is using donated embryos for me?

Using donated embryos in your treatment may be recommended if:

  • you and your partner have fertility problems that mean you are less likely to be successful using your own sperm and/or eggs
  • you and your partner or both have a serious condition that would be inherited by any children you have and you wish to avoid passing it on, such as Huntington’s disease
  • you are single and post-menopausal.

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How does using donated embryos work?

Broadly, the procedure for using donated embryos is:

Step 1. Your clinic will try to select donors whose physical characteristics match those of yourself and your partner as closely as possible.

Step 2. The donors will have been screened for infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C and Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Step 3. The donated embryos will have previously been frozen. The procedure for thawing and transfer is as for frozen embryo transfer.

In vitro samples

What is my chance of having a baby using donated embryos?

The average success rate for each treatment cycle using donor embryos is slightly higher than the average success rate for conventional IVF across all age groups, as donor embryos must be comprised of a donor egg from someone 35 or under and donor sperm from soneone aged 45 or under.

The following data is for treatment cycles that used donor eggs, irrespective of the source of sperm used (e.g. partner sperm or donor sperm). Donor embryos are those that have been created using both donor eggs and donor sperm.

Using fresh embryos created from donor eggs

Cycles: 1321
Live births: 388
Live birth rate*: 29.4%

 *% of cycles started

Using frozen embryos created from donor eggs

Cycles: 587
Live births: 124
Live birth rate*: 21.1%       

 *% of cycles started

All embryos created from donor eggs

Cycles: 1908
Live births: 512
Live birth rate*: 26.8 &

 *% of cycles started

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What are the risks of using donated embryos?

If you use donated embryos from registered donors at an HFEA licensed clinic, the risks are minimal because:

  • donors who give embryos through a licensed clinic must answer a series of questions to ensure that they are suitable
  • licensed clinics check donors’ family histories for inherited diseases
  • all donors go through screening checks to ensure they are not carrying infections, such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C and CMV
  • there are limits on the numbers of families created by each donor where embryos are used to treat you at a licensed clinic.

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Importing donated gametes by airImporting donated embryos from overseas

Make sure you understand the risks involved in transferring and importing embryos from within the EU and from outside it. See:

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Legal considerations

If you go through a licensed clinic, you are the legal parent of the child and the donor cannot make a claim for or be responsible for the child.

The woman having treatment is considered by law to be the baby’s mother, not the woman who donated the embryos.

If the woman who is treated has a husband or male partner who gave his consent to the treatment, he is considered by law to be the baby’s father.

Since April 2005, identifying information about donors is held on the HFEA Register and may be given to any child born from a donation once they are 18 years old.

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Where do I start?

Once you have decided, in consultation with your clinician, that using donated embryos is suitable for your circumstances, your clinic will offer to put you on a waiting list for an embryo donor.


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Page last updated: 28 February 2014

Emotional support

Find the support you needFind the support you need.

There are a number of resources on hand to help you through what many people describe as the 'emotional rollercoaster’ of fertility treatment.

..more about getting support

Risks of using an unregistered donor

If you don’t use a registered donor from an HFEA licensed clinic:

  • you could be putting your health and that of the unborn child at risk as the same checks and screening do not apply
  • the legal position is less clear and the donor could have a claim on or responsibility for the child
  • people born as a result will not have a statutory right to access information about their donor from the HFEA register.