• * The center of assisted medical procreation of the CHU St Pierre is specialised in reproductive medicine. Reference center: quality label ISO 9001 obtained in 2008 and accredited by the AFMPS (Agence Fédérale des Médicaments et Produits de Santé).

Embryo donation

Embryo donation is an assisted reproductive (AR) technique whereby a couple with supernumerary frozen embryos resulting from in vitro fertilization (IVF), with no further plans to have children, may donate their embryos to another infertile couple.  

When IVF has more embryos than is necessary for implantation in the uterus, good quality supernumerary embryos can be frozen. They can be reused by the couple in case of failed IVF attempts or if the couple wants another child. If the couple no longer has plans for children and they still have frozen embryos after 5 years, they have the possibility of giving them to another infertile couple.

The couple must choose to allocate these embryos when they go for IVF treatment by signing an informed consent form. They have the choice between donating them to research, giving them to another infertile couple or destroying them.

Embryo donation is authorised by Belgian law and its practice is governed by the “law relating to assisted reproduction and the disposition of supernumerary embryos and gametes” published in the Belgian Official Journal on 17/07/2007.


Who can be a donor?

Any couple undergoing IVF who still has frozen embryos after 5 years. The couple will have specified in the agreement signed at the beginning of IVF that they are a potential donor. After 5 years, they will receive a letter asking for confirmation of their choice. An appointment will then be arranged with their gynaecologist. Both members of the couple must be present and must sign an agreement stating that they both accept the donation of their embryos to another couple and that they renounce their parental rights. A psychologist will be present during the consultation to support them. They will be asked questions and required to take blood tests ensuring that there is no risk of transmitting infectious or genetic diseases (HIV serology, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C; karyotype; search for a mutation associated with cystic fibrosis; haemoglobin electrophoresis;  blood group). The donation of embryos to another couple is totally anonymous. The resulting child will have no means of discovering the identity of the donors. The receiving couple will only be informed of the physical characteristics (hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity) of the two members of the couple in order to provide the best match possible. The donors won’t be charged for either the tests or the consultation; this is the responsibility of the receiving couple.


Who can benefit from embryo donation?

There are many situations where embryo donation can be an option. First of all, if the woman is no longer able to produce ovules and the man has no sperm. Secondly, when both parents risk transmitting a serious hereditary disease that cannot be diagnosed prior to the pre-implantation of their child or when sterility in the man or woman is coupled with a risk of one of them transmitting a serious genetic anomaly to the child. Thirdly, it is also a possibility after repeated AR failure (failed fertilization, bad embryo quality, failed implantation). Finally, couples may choose embryo donation as an alternative to the donation of a single gamete (oocytes or sperm).


The receiving candidate couple will be seen by a specialist gynaecologist from the AR team. The two members of the couple have to sign an informed consent form and be asked questions, undergo a physical examination and blood tests to ensure that they can see through a pregnancy in the right conditions. The receiving couple must pay a fixed sum to cover the costs of the tests, among other things, that the donor couple will have to undergo. Belgian law limits the age of the receiving party to 45 years old for submitting the request for the procedure and to 47 years old for the actual embryo transfer.


The receiving couple must also have two meetings with the team of psychologists to ensure coherence with their plan. The case will then be discussed among the entire AR team which will consider whether or not there is any major contraindication to the plan.


If accepted, the team will endeavour to find embryos that best match the couple according to physical characteristics and ethnicity. The embryos will be thawed and transferred to the receiving party during a spontaneous cycle or a cycle artificially created by medication. One or two embryos will be placed in a fine catheter which will be delicately introduced into the uterine fundus, guided by ultrasound, where the embryos will be deposited.


Twelve days later, a blood test will be carried out to find out whether the woman is pregnant. 




Plan du site CHU Saint Pierre - Bâtiment 200, 5è étage . Département de Gynécologie-Obstétrique

Centre de Fécondation In vitro - 322, Rue Haute - Bruxelles Tel +32(0)2 535 3406 Fax +32(0)2 535 3409