What should we do with our unused embryos?

If you’ve had fertility treatment and you have frozen embryos left (or ‘frosties’ as they’re affectionately known), you may be wondering what you should do with them

This may leave you feeling upset, agonising over what to do for the best.

Before you went ahead with your treatment, your clinic would have asked your thoughts on what to do with any remaining embryos. But now, after the reality of IVF, you may think differently than you did before, and that’s perfectly reasonable and ok.

Here, we discuss all your options to help you decide which one may suit you best

Preserving your embryos

Perhaps this allows you the most amount of freedom over future decisions dependent on your situation.

It’s important to be aware that if you are in the UK, the standard period for freezing embryos is ten years, with 55 years in exceptional circumstances. In the US, however, there is no time limit at all.

The storage cost can have an impact

It can cost up to £400 a year to store embryos in the UK, so this is also something to consider. Sometimes, the cost aspect means that the decision is taken out of individuals and couples hands because it’s too much of a financial burden to carry on with them in frozen storage.

Future complications

Deciding to let go of frozen embryos may provide closure on whether or not embryos will be used in the future, such as changes in circumstances which can lead to the use of unused frozen embryos being taken through the court system, which is stressful and upsetting.

Your family is complete

An individual or a couple have had successful treatment and feel their family is complete and decide not to continue with fertility treatment.


Donating healthy embryos to individuals or couples experiencing infertility and unable to create their own biological embryos

Donating isn’t a common option, but some do decide that although any future child born from a donated embryo would be genetic siblings to their children, or in some cases a potential child they never had; it gives them peace that they’ve helped someone else in the midst of infertility.

Help and counselling is on hand if you do think that donating is for you, but you’re uncertain how you might feel.

A final option is to donate your embryos to research into fertility and fertility treatments

You may find your embryos are useful in science, especially if you or your partner carry a genetic predisposition to certain diseases or conditions. Embryonic stem cell research is growing and you could help provide future answers to infertility and genetic disease. In this case, embryos would only ever be allowed to reach a certain, very early, stage of development in a laboratory setting. They would never be allowed to reach any form of maturity or result in a baby being born.

It is such a difficult decision to make and there is no right or wrong when it comes to unused embryos. Whatever decision you make is the right one for you.

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