Today, July 2nd 2012, we are presenting the results of our Embryo Adoption Programme at the European Reproduction Society Congress. As recorded on April 30th, 1,820 embryo transfers had given place to 550 born children and 104 more babies from 28 different countries on their way. Let me tell you how we came up with the idea.
Since many patients with frozen embryos don’t wish to have more children, many embryos get gathered in Spanish reproduction centres without a foreseen future. This happens even if our legislation allows all the options available.
Ever since Assisted Reproduction Law was modified on November 2003, when patients don’t reply to the letters the centre sends them regarding their embryo’s future, these are considered to be “abandoned” and lie under the centre’s custody.
Thus, we find ourselves with hundreds of embryos whose future depends on us.
It must’ve been around 2003 when I, as Head of the Sterility Service, and after giving it much thought, came up with the conclusion that their fate couldn’t rely on our team exclusively. Thus, we decided to share our responsibility with society and offer our embryos the opportunity to live helping them find a loving family.
We could either use them for research or destroy them, but instead we decided to include all those embryos from healthy parents in an Embryo Adoption Programme that was created in 2004. (In this online chat I explain many of the Programme’s aspects in great detail). We coined, for the first time ever, the term “embryo adoption.”
Today we’re the centre with the highest number of embryo adoptions and whilst we’re celebrating our 500th birth, the whole USA has only had 150 births by embryo adoption.
From the very first moment it was heartwarming to see the broad social acceptance, the support we received from different collectives and the hope with which women from all social classes, ethnicities and nationalities came and still come to us seeking to adopt an embryo.
A week after the Programme was created, we received letters from numerous collectives worldwide that ranged from ecologist associations to religious ones – all types and colors – who had heard about it and wanted to express their support. You should know that years ago, when English centres set a date to destroy the embryos in similar situations, they were faced with small street protests at their doors.
This fact reflects that those who haven’t been reproductively challenged don’t know our job up close. Even though we’re doctors who help people who can’t have children, there’s a slight fear of what we may do in an In Vitro Fertilization lab… The preponderant reaction to words like destruction or embryo research is rejection. Nevertheless, when they are told we’re giving an embryo the opportunity to live, they accept it.
I frequently get asked which case has been most significant to me. I could either say the first baby who was ever born due to Embryo adoption, the 500th, the one who had been frozen during 13 years, or the baby born to a friend’s family… But I’d be lying. My colleagues and I still comment daily how special each and every embryo transfer is. It’s exciting to think about the origin of every embryo and how fate takes each to a different woman, the enthusiasm and the hope they breathe during the very moment they come together.
Behind each case lies a story of failures in previous treatments. Many had given up the idea of becoming parents because they morally didn’t contemplate this option, and a new opportunity has become available for them.
Please, don’t think people who don’t reply to our letters are “abandoning their spare embryos.” It isn’t true. The vast majority answers: “We trusted you to build our family and still do, decide what you think is best.” It’s an honor to do so and know that, thanks to this decision, more than 500 children have been born around the world.