As more and more families sought treatment for infertility through in vitro fertilization, there were a growing number of embryos remaining in frozen storage following successful completion of their families. Families who had created the embryos were reluctant to destroy the embryos as they represented success for the creation of their families and lives with potential. Likewise, many of these families did not want to donate their embryos for scientific experimentation.
As the number of embryos in storage increased, reproductive endocrinologists began to realize that there was an excess of embryos in storage. With the permission of the families who had created the embryos, the medical profession began to make these existing embryos available to other infertile patients within their practices.
In the early 2000s, some infertility specialists felt that there needed to be a better way to transfer existing embryos of families who desired to share their embryos with a family who would like to use these embryos to create their own family. It was determined that these embryos should be identified, permission given by the families who created the embryos and a process by which these embryos could be transferred to the receiving family.
Social workers who were involved in the planning process, recognized that the transfer of these embryos from the family who had created the embryos to a receiving family mirrored the traditional adoption process. These professionals recognized that the needs of the family who created the embryos were the same needs and desires as a placing family in traditional adoptions. Likewise, it became apparent that the families desiring to receive the embryos could benefit by the same preparation as traditional adoptive families. As the needs of each entity in the transfer of the embryos from the donating family to the receiving family became obvious, the process began to be called embryo donation and adoption.