(03) 9848 4262


(03) 9848 4262


Fertility IVF Specialist

Unused Embryos in Storage

Some people find it simple to decide what to do with unused embryos but others find the decision challenging and distressing. The decision is personal and can challenge your ethical or religious views and ideas about the significance of embryos. You may not have thought about the unused embryos in storage at the start of IVF treatment. Even if you have thought about it; at the end of IVF treatment your views may have changed over time or since having children.


You may also have a different view to your partner, the donor (if you used one) or your family. In situations where one partner wants to end treatment and the other wants to continue, when partners have separated, or when one partner is willing to donate the embryos but the other partner is not, the decision is likely to be challenging.


If a joint decision cannot be reached, counselling at the clinic can help. Consider all your options carefully, including having another child. If you have a young family, it may be difficult to imagine having the energy, time, or income to manage another baby. However, your thoughts may change as your children grow older.


Causes that prevent people from using their stored embryos:

  • Completed the family
  • Separation
  • Illness
  • Finance
  • Age
  • Lake of Energy
  • Other reasons

It is difficult to decide what to do with stored embryos


ART Act (2008) limits storage time for embryos to five years, with the option for the clinic to approve extension for a further five years.

Approval to extend storage of embryos beyond 10 years requires a written application to the Patient Review Panel.

The clinic where your embryos are stored will contact you when the storage time limit is approaching to ask what you want to do with your embryos.

Inform the clinic storing your embryos before moving address so that they can contact you. The clinic is required by law to dispose of the embryos when the storage time limit has expired if they do not receive instructions from you.

Options for Your Unused Embryos:

  1. Apply for permission to continue embryos storage.
  2. Donate the embryos to another person or couple.
  3. Permit the embryos to be used for research.
  4. Dispose of the embryos.


If the clinic where your embryos are stored does not have the option you want, you can request transfer your embryos to a clinic that can offer your preferred option.

You have to sign a consent form instructing your clinic of your chosen option.

If a donor’s gametes were used to form the embryos, the donor must also sign a consent form agreeing to your chosen option.

1. Continue to store the embryos:

If, after 10 years, you still want to keep your embryos stored, you must apply to the Patient Review Panel for permission. The clinic will contact you to alert you that storage time limit is approaching and provide you with the application form you need to complete if you want to extend the storage time.

In most cases approval to extend storage is granted, provided satisfactory reasons are given. For example:

  • You are still having treatment
  • You wish to have a child in the future
  • You have a medical condition that temporarily prevents you from using the embryos.
  • You are also able to apply to the Patient Review Panel for extended storage time before the embryos have been stored for ten years.

2. Donation of Embryos to Another Person or Couple

Before donating your embryos, your family and medical history is recorded.

Counselling is provided to

  • You
  • The recipients of your donated embryos.


Counselling concerning embryo donation includes


  • Legal issues
  • Practical points
  • Social concerns
  • Emotional implications.


Providing your embryos are suitable for donation; you may donate your embryos to

  • Someone you know
  • An unknown recipient chosen by the clinic


      You have to be comfortable about donating your embryos.

     If a child is born, this will have lifelong significance for

  • You and
  • Your family.

    Things to consider

  • How you might feel towards a person genetically connected to you, your children and other members of your family
  • The recipient family may have different values, backgrounds, beliefs, and religion from your own.
  • If you donate your embryos to someone you know, you should think about and discuss with the recipients whether you will have contact with the child and if so, how often and what your role will be.
  • If the donation is successful, the names of the people who gave the gametes are recorded on the Victorian Donor Register. The person born as a result of the donation is entitled to know your identify-ing details once she or he becomes an adult. The recipient parents can apply to the donor register to find out more about you and will be given this information if you consent. Likewise, you may access identifying information about the recipients and the child if they consent. Apart from agreeing to being identified as the genetic parents of a child born as result of your donation, you have no other legal rights or responsibilities relating to the child.
  • Some people feel unable to donate their embryos ‘potential children’ and connect them emotionally to their existing children. Others are comfortable with embryo donation.

3. Embryos use for research

You can donate your embryos to

  • Research
  • Use by embryologists in training.

Research may include new procedures, techniques ways to improve ART outcomes or improve embryos survival. Each person whose gametes have been used to form the embryo has to sign consent to the specific research project for which the embryos will be used. You will be given written information about the research study for which your embryo/s may be used, and an opportunity to talk to someone about it. As many more embryos than needed are offered for research they may be discarded.

4. Disposal of embryos

The embryos are stored in straws ‘plastic tubes’. Straws are removed from cold storage by the embryologist and left at room temperature for at least 24 hours. They are then discarded. You may take the straws with the laboratory succumbed embryos home.

Once a decision is made; a sense of loss or relief could be felt; however every response is legitimate.

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