How are embryos received or donated?
Embryo donation is legal in Australia and is supported by a number of fertility clinics. The processes surrounding donating or receiving unused embryos vary widely between clinics and are subject to the legislation in each state. We suggest you see a fertility counsellor
, and seek medical and legal advice specific to your situation.
Clinics with embryo donation programs often have a waiting list or pool for people seeking embryo donors. Other things to keep in mind include:
- as embryo donation is not yet very common, it can be a long wait before being matched with a suitable donor
- those on waiting lists may need to renew their interest periodically to remain eligible
- there may be eligibility criteria for the waiting list such as upper age limits.
Alternatively, individuals and couples may find a donor independently. This may be someone known to them, or they may find someone through blogs or classifieds, such as:
- the 'Fertility Procedures' section of the classifieds in free parenting magazines such as Sydney's Child
- the Embryo Donation Network website
When a patient has unused embryos at the end of successful fertility treatment, they may choose to donate their embryos. There are two main ways to donate:
- donation through an embryo donation program - i.e. a clinic matches donors and recipients. Usually there isn't contact between donors and recipients. Clinics may place restrictions on embryos received for donation, eg embryo quality, family history, health of the donor. Clinics may also not accept single embryos for donation.
- finding own recipient (see 'receiving embryos', above). The embryos may need to be transported to the recipient's clinic.
Donors need to agree to the release of identifying information about themselves if any child born of their donation requests this (once they reach 18 years).
Is embryo donation legal?
Embryo donation is legal in Australia, though requirements for donation differ between states. Please seek legal advice in your State, and look at our state-specific information
. Other sites may also be helpful such as Health Law Central
Is it possible to donate a single embryo?
Yes. Some clinics have a policy that you can only donate two or more embryos, but other clinics will facilitate a donation of a single embryo.
Is embryo donation expensive?
For donors: there are usually no costs for donation of embryos as recipients cover the expenses.
For recipients: all expenses from the embryo donation process are usually paid for by the recipients. This may include counselling and medical appointments for both parties, as well as the normal costs of fertility treatment.
Can donors be paid for embryo donation?
No. In Australia it is not legal to exchange money for body parts including organs, sperm, eggs and embryos. However, all expenses incurred through the donation process are usually paid for by the recipients.
Do all clinics support embryo donation?
Not all clinics support embryo donation, but if your embryos are stored at such a clinic, it is usually possible to move embryos to a clinic that does support embryo donation.
Do I have a say in who I donate my surplus embryos to?
Yes. If preferred, an embryo donor is able to decide who they would like to donate their embryos to. Counselling
enables further discussion of these preferences.
As an embryo donor, am I able to know the outcome of the donation or meet the children born of my donation?
The embryo donor’s preferences to know the outcome of the donation or to meet any children born of the donation will be discussed during the counselling process.
Knowledge about the outcome of embryo donation is dependent on state legislation and the existence of state donor registers. For instance, the NSW Health Central Register allows for information to be shared between donors and donor conceived children with the consent of both parties.
What if I donate embryos and then change my mind?
state that an embryo donor is able to change their mind about their donation at any time until the time of the embryo transfer. Some clinics have a cooling-off period following the signing of consent forms. After this point, if the donor has a change of mind, it is expected that further counselling of donor and recipient would be recommended. Once the embryo transfer has occurred, the embryo is irretrievably the property of the embryo recipient.
If I have a child as the result of an embryo donation, who will the child’s parents be on the birth certificate?
In Australia, the woman who gives birth to a child is the legal mother of the child. This remains the case for the child born as the result of an embryo donation, even though the child and mother will not be genetically related. Please contact your State's Births Deaths and Marriages office for information on birth certificates.
How do I tell my child they are born as a result of embryo donation?
Available evidence suggests that telling a child about their origins is best practice. There are helpful resources
to support you as you talk with your child about this. Counselling may also be helpful in order to talk through how to raise this issue with your child.
Can I choose to store my embryos indefinitely?
There are statutory time limits on how long embryos can be kept in storage in NSW, VIC, WA and SA. In other states and territories, clinics are required to ensure that patients to only store embryos for five years, with the option of extending for five additional years only.
I have unused embryos that were created using donor sperm and/or eggs. Can I donate these?
If I receive donor embryos, can I eventually donate them on to another couple if I don’t want or need them all?