By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 08/17/2016

Embryo donation is an alternative to egg donation and/or sperm donation for those couples who find themselves unable to use their own reproductive cells.

While in other countries it is an option also for single women or lesbian couples who cannot use their own eggs, in Croatia assisted reproductive technologies are available just for heterosexual couples, including access to gamete and embryo donation.

In Croatia, double-donor IVF, that is, both egg and sperm donation, is not allowed. Thus, when neither of the members in a couple are able to contribute their gametes, they will have no alternative but to use donated embryos.

What is the fate of unused embryos?

Couples who undergo an in vitro fertilization procedure in Croatia can opt to embryo vitrification as well as egg vitrification. Once frozen, the fate of these embryos can be:

  • Using them them in future cycles
  • Donating them to other infertile couples

Couples have the chance to turn to the embryos they vitrified should they experience trouble conceiving or wish to have another baby. If, conversely, they are unwilling to use these embryos because they have already achieved pregnancy and do not want more children, the only option remaining is embryo donation.

In Croatia, donating frozen embryos for stem cell research is forbidden. The use of such embryos is limited to fertility treatments, either for their own benefit or for third parties.

Advantages of becoming an embryo recipient

Adopting donor embryos entails a series of advantages if compared to other fertility treatments. Firstly, the simplicity of the technique, since it just involves three steps: endometrial preparation, embryo thawing, and finally embryo transfer.

No injectable fertility medications are necessary for endometrial preparation, something that makes embryo adoption advantageous if compared to conventional IVF procedures, where trigger shots are required for the maturation of the developing eggs. Needed hormone medications are those containing estrogens, administered through either patch or oral route, and progesterone, administered vaginally or orally.

All these factors make embryo adoption a more affordable treatment than ovum donation, as in this case no ovulation induction for donors is necessary, and thus neither follicular puncture nor embryo culture.

About the embryo adoption process

The first phase of the process involves endometrial stimulation, so that the ideal thickness and structure are reached. By doing this, we can increase the chances for a pregnancy to be achieved after the embryo transfer.

To this end, the patient has to take estrogen and progesterone supplements following the IVF medication stimulation protocol established by the gynecologist. Throughout this stage, regular ultrasound monitoring is necessary to check whether the endometrium is developing as expected.

Once the endometrium reaches a thickness of 7 to 10 mm, and a triple line pattern, the embryo transfer is scheduled for the day after.

An embryo transfer involves inserting a fine catheter through the vagina. Once the uterus is reached, the embryos should be gently placed there.

In Croatia, regulations allow a maximum of 2 embryos per transfer, thereby reducing the chances for a multiple pregnancy to occur. One should keep in mind that multiple births entail a higher risk for maternal an fetal complications to show up, not only during the course of pregnancy, but also in the delivery and postpartum periods if compared to singleton pregnancies.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information
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One comment

    1. risingup98

      Only for straight couples? OMG, what a sexist country… I was interested in traveling to Croatia because I know it’s an opportunity for me and my partner (lesbian) to see this beautiful place on Earth… but I think we can’t go there 🙁 Thanks for this post Sandra F!