Surplus Embryos: Options for Non-Implanted Embryos in Fertility Clinics

embriones almacenados
Surplus embryos

What happens to Surplus Embryos?

According to the latest official SEF registry in Spain in 2021, about 777,679 embryos are stored in banks. What is the purpose of these surplus or stored embryos? Approximately 46% have a reproductive purpose by their parents, but what about the rest of the embryos?

Advances in IVF laboratories result in an accumulation of embryos, driven by improved embryo survival rates after vitrification and the increasing trend of transferring a single embryo in each transfer.

What can you do with Frozen Embryos?

Assisted human reproduction law clearly states that surplus embryos can be used for

  • The patient’s next treatments
  • Donated to other couples
  • Donated for scientific research
  • Cease conservation with embryo destruction.

Additionally, there are cases where embryos are abandoned by parents, and the clinic decides their fate according to legal options.

How can Embryos be donated for research?

Currently, the procedure to obtain a research project involving human embryos requires the completion of a series of documents and approval by a research ethics committee. This committee varies significantly depending on the autonomous community in question.

Following this approval, the project must be accepted by the corresponding autonomous community. Subsequently, it is this community that sends the project to the National Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction.

This process takes up to 24 months for various reasons. In some instances, after this period, we may no longer be able to reconnect with patients to obtain permission for the use of embryos in that specific project, or the initially presented study may become obsolete.

Additionally, according to biomedical research law, there should be a list of public projects that is not currently public knowledge. For this reason, our interest group is developing a portal where we will publish the projects held by different research centers to connect fertility clinics and research centers, facilitating the use of the considerable number of embryos stored, which clinics are unable to utilize and which do not fulfill the wishes of their progenitors.

What if parents don’t respond after 5 years?

As of May 1, 1996, the body applying the Law of Human Fertilization and Embryology amended its Code, stating that human embryos should not be preserved beyond the normal maximum period of 5 years unless the individuals providing gametes, including donors, request an extended conservation period.

According to Spanish Fertility Regulations, in accordance with Law 14/2006, dated May 26, regarding assisted human reproduction techniques, in the case of two consecutive renewals without obtaining the signature of consent from the woman or progenitor couple, and after unsuccessful attempts to obtain such renewal, the embryos will be made available to the centers where they are located.

Need assistance in using your embryos and unsure how?