Monday, February 11, 2013

Adopting a Snowflake: Embryo Adoption

I have been debating about whether to do a blog post about embryo adoption. For a few weeks I have been debating with myself about my view of embryo adoption. Is it ethical? Why or why not? I have finally formed my opinion.

First Things First...

If you are like I was, you are probably wondering what in the world "snowflake adoption" or "embryo adoption" is. Before coming across it in some adoption research, I had never heard of it. Recently my sister saw an advertisement for an embryo adoption agency and asked me about it, which sparked my interest in the ethics of embryo adoption.

An embryo is a tiny multi-cell baby created from a fertilized egg. If you believe that life begins at conception (as I do), then an embryo is a tiny human being - a small life, that will develop and mature.


In the USA alone there are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos (tiny human lives!) These embryos were created through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for couples to use in building their families. Because IVF is expensive and can sometimes fail, many couples choose to have multiple eggs fertilized at once. However, not all the embryos (fertilized eggs) can be transferred to the mother's womb at once because of the risks of multiple birth. Many of the embryos have been frozen for later use by the couple as they continue to grow their families. However, couples sometimes complete their families and still have leftover frozen embryos.

If you believe in life at conception, this creates an ethical quandary of what to do with the "leftover" embryos.  It is unethical (and costly) to store these frozen embryos forever. It is also unethical to destroy (kill) the embryos or donate them to scientific research (which also results in the embryo being killed.)

Families who choose life for their embryos (babies) are left with two choices, either transferring the remaining embryos to the biological mother's womb or making an adoption plan for the remaining embryos.

Snowflake or Embryo adoption is the adoption of these little embryos! (Just as snowflakes are all tiny, frozen, and unique, so are these embryos. Thus the embryo adoption is sometimes called snowflake adoption.) The unused embryos are thawed and transferred to the womb of the adopting mother. If the transfer is successful, the adopting mother will be pregnant! In nine months she will give birth to her adopted child! The adoptive mother and father will legally be the mother and father of the child/children born. 


Ethics of Embryo Adoption

Is it ethical for embryos to be adopted? I believe that it is. Here is why.

Embryo adoption is adoption nine months sooner.
If the embryo was carried to full term and delivered, would it be ethical for the baby to be adopted? Yes. If parents decide, for whatever reason, that they are unable to parent their child, it is ethical for them to make an adoption plan for their baby. Just as we urge a birth mother to make an adoption plan rather than to abort her baby, shouldn't we urge a mother to make an adoption plan rather than "abort" her frozen embryo? If it is ethical for a newborn baby to be adopted, then surely it is ethical for a pre-born baby to be adopted. 

Embryo adoption saves a human life.
Embryo adoption prevents a baby from being killed!

Embryo adoption is not agreeing with the conception of the child.
Some people may have an ethical objection to "fertility technologies" such as IVF, surrogate mothers, and/or donor sperm/eggs. I am not here to argue for or against these things. No matter what your opinion on these things, adoption of an embryo isn't agreeing with them. Adoption is never about agreeing or disagreeing with the conception of a child. Adoption is about giving parents to a child in need of parents.

In his book, Adopted for Life, Russell Moore states "The children are already conceived; the adopting parents are no more endorsing the technologies involved than parents adopting from an unwed mother are endorsing fornication."

Embryo adoption is true adoption, not buying of an embryo.

Embryos are not being created for the purpose of selling. The natural parents are not selling their embryos. They do not receive any money for the embryos. These parents are truly making an adoption plan.

Benefits of Embryo Adoption

You are giving a child a chance to live!

The adopting mother gets to be pregnant. 

This has many benefits for the adopting family. First, the mother can bond with the baby as it grows in her body.  Second, Unlike traditional adoption, the mother can make lifestyle choices that affect the health of the baby, such as abstaining from alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, eating healthy foods, taking prenatal vitamins, and getting good prenatal care. The mother can also nurse her child!

Just as with traditional adoption, families can choose open, closed, or semi-open adoptions.

The amount of contact between the natural family and adopting family is up to both families. It may no contact, yearly letters and pictures sent through the adoption agency, or even more contact! Also, it is beneficial to children to have medical histories of their natural parents and grandparents.

Hear from Adopting Families

For More Information

Questions or Comments?

Agree? Disagree? Questions? I would love your input on this little known form of adoption! 


  1. Replies
    1. Gave birth to two boys via embryo adoption/donation. Fab boys born 29 Nov last year, adopted Good Friday 2012, felt God knit them together same night. Adopted in Spain, born in the UK.

  2. I would love this how much does it cost