Donating Frozen Embryos


With the practice of in vitro fertilization (IVF) becoming more common as a treatment for infertility, there is the somewhat unavoidable consequence of creating left-over frozen embryos. For people searching for fertility treatment alternatives, these “spare” embryos may be one of the best family building options.

Embryo adoption is becoming more and more common. “From 2004 to 2019, there were 21,600 frozen donated embryo transfers in the United States, resulting in 8457 live births.” 1 The number of those choosing to donate embryos is increasing, giving rise to the number of successful embryo transfers. “The overall pregnancy rate and live birth rate per frozen donated embryo transfer increased significantly between 2004 and 2019 from 40.8% to 54.3%…and from 33.3% to 44.8%…respectively.” 2


Snowflake baby or snowflake children are terms used by organizations promoting the adoption of frozen embryo such as Nightlight® Christian Adoptions. In fact, the term “Snowflakes,” when it comes to embryo adoption is a registered trademark by Nightlight®. Nightlight® is a Christian adoption agency that provides many paths to parenthood through both domestic and international adoption services. In 1997 Nightlight® Christian Adoptions initiated the first ever program to assist in adopting frozen embryos which allows families to experience pregnancy and give birth to their adopted child. Snowflakes® is a division of Nightlight® Christian Adoptions which is amongst the oldest and most experienced adoption agencies in the world.


There are two participants needed to complete the successful adoption of frozen embryos. The first is the donor family that is in possession of surplus frozen embryos. When the donor family makes the choice to share, they give the gift of life and help in building a family through embryo donation. Over 2,000 families have donated their remaining embryos through Snowflakes®. The donating family is allowed to choose the family that receives their embryo gift. And vice versa, the receiving family can also choose. “There are an estimated 1.5 million frozen embryos in the United States.”3

The second participant is the adopting family that is given the chance for a successful pregnancy and family expansion through embryo adoption. It is Snowflakes® mission to bring the donating family and the adopting family successfully together. All Snowflakes® adopting families are evaluated through a home study process prior to the matching phase of the program. Snowflakes® provides resources to support the adopting family before, during and after the placement. Both families complete profiles and are given counseling and support throughout the process. By the end of 2024 the program will have helped families give birth to over 1,300 babies.


The Snowflakes® adoption program is divided into four phases. The first is the application for embryo adoption. This includes getting a physician’s approval to carry a pregnancy. You must also complete a home evaluation. This is the same home study used to evaluate and educate adopting parents in traditional domestic adoptions. You will also be asked to create a family profile to be reviewed by the donor.

The second phase is matching the adopting family with the donor. This is a mutual selection matching process. Both genetic and adopting families provide information about themselves that indicates what type of family for which they are looking. When Nightlight® has an adopting family on file who matches those criteria, their family profile is sent to the genetic family for consideration and selection. If the adopting family is selected by the genetic family, the genetic family’s family profile and medical information are sent to the adopting family for consideration. The third phase is the contracting phase that includes the agreed upon transfer of the embryo ownership. Genetic parents differ from a “typical” traditional birthparent in several ways. A woman placing her child for adoption may be unprepared for the emotions she will feel upon her child’s birth and therefore may choose to parent her baby. In an embryo adoption, the genetic parents are typically older, have a family, have been through the infertility process, understand the demands of parenting a child, and fully understand that they cannot emotionally and/or financially add additional children to their family. Most genetic families have had time to contemplate their options while their embryos are in storage before they begin the adoption process.

The fourth and final phase is known as the shipping phase includes the frozen embryo transfer and placement in the uterus. Within weeks of the implantation, you will know if there is a pregnancy. The entire process of adopting and embryo takes from six to nine months and can be far less expensive than traditional domestic and international adoptions or fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.


Besides the benefits of spending less of both your time and money, there are other less tangible advantages of adopting a frozen embryo. The experience of pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most important advantages. You and your spouse will have the opportunity to bond with your baby before the birth. Also, you have complete control of the pre-natal environment for your child. Because there are thousands of frozen embryos waiting for adoption, you can begin the process immediately. Other benefits include the confidence in knowing you don’t have to wait for court finalization. You leave the hospital with your baby’s and your names on the birth certificate. You also have the option to adopt sets of embryos if you should wish to give birth to genetic siblings for your family.


For the couple who have been longing to start a family and have been unsuccessful in conceiving, embryo adoption just might be the perfect solution. What a wonderful gift of life from the donors to help dreams come true. At Nightlight® Christian Adoptions and the Snowflakes® embryo adoption program there are a group of experienced and caring people that can help you through every step the adoption process. If you would like to discuss the possibility of embryo adoption for your family, please contact our Embryo Adoption Inquiry Specialists at Nightlight® Christian Adoptions, at 970-663-6799 or [email protected]. You may also visit the Nightlight® website for more information:




4- Note: Information for this article references the website.

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