By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 04/26/2016

Embryo donation is a process by which a couple uses the leftover embryos from the fertility treatment of another couple.

When an individual person or couple undergoes in vitro fertilization (IVF), the woman is given ovulation induction medications with the purpose of obtaining an increased number of eggs, thereby allowing a greater number of embryos to be created. Thanks to it, we can widen the number of available options when it comes to selecting the best embryo for the transfer.

Cypriot law allows transferring up to 2 embryos in women under 39 years of age, and up to 3 if she is aged between 39 and 50 years. Thus, the amount of spare embryos after an IVF treatment is a variable one.

A couple may wish to preserve these embryos for later use either because the first IVF attempt has not lead them to achieve pregnancy, or because they want to have another child. In this case, cryopreservation will be the option of choice.

On the other hand, if the couple do not wish to store these embryos for later use or if they have surpassed the maximum period of time established by law during which embryos can remain frozen in accordance with the law, they must choose a fate for these supernumerary embryos:

  • Donating them to other couples
  • Destroying them
  • Donating them for research

According to Cypriot law, the maximum period of time during which embryos can be stored is 10 years. However, such period can be extended upon written request.

Donor eggs and sperm

In addition to using the spare embryos of another couple’s IVF cycle, Cypriot law envisages another type of embryo donation. In such case, by donated embryos we understand the performance of an IVF cycle using the embryos obtained by fusing donor eggs and sperm.

This alternative usually allows us to achieve higher success rates, as both the eggs and the sperm have been collected from young, healthy donors.

In this sense, it is possible that this leads to a misunderstanding, as in other countries such as Spain, one can distinguish between embryo donation and double-donor IVF, while in Cyprus both options are referred to as embryo donation by Cypriot fertility centers.

Treatment for the recipient of donated embryos

Regardless of whether the embryos have been created using donated eggs and sperm, or they are the surplus embryos after another couple’s reproductive cycle, the treatment for the recipient is the same.

It involves the preparation of the endometrium—uterine layer where embryo implantation takes place—for it to be at its receptive phase in the very moment when the embryos are transferred:

  • Endometrial thickness of 7-10 mm
  • Triple line pattern of the endometrium

To that end, recipients are prescribed stimulation of ovarian function medications either by oral, vaginal, or patch route. As she takes these medications, the doctor will carry out various ultrasound scans in order to monitor endometrial development. Thus, the embryo transfer will be scheduled according to the woman’s ovulation cycle.

In cases of foreign patients, they can start taking fertility medications from their country of origin, and visiting the clinic in Cyprus just for the embryo transfer. This option will depend on the criteria established by each center and medical specialist.

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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. katherine zone

      Hello ladies, I honestly think no one should have the right to choose to destroy their embryos. I’m sure there would be at least one couple around the world willing to use them in order to have a baby… If you choose that, you’re choosing to destroy the gift of life.