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Couples Unsure What To Do With Unused Embryos Created for Fertility Treatments, Study Says

October 17, 2003

There are an estimated 400,000 unused frozen embryos created for fertility treatments that remain in storage in U.S. clinics and laboratories, and many of the couples who own the embryos are unsure about whether to donate, save or dispose of them, according to a study presented on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Robert Nachtigall, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of California-San Francisco, and colleagues interviewed 37 couples who had conceived using donor gametes. The researchers found that 26 of the 37 couples had between four and 29 frozen embryos in storage. Among the 26 couples, only nine had decided what to do with the stored embryos -- four couples intended to donate them to research; three couples planned to dispose of them; one couple planned to donate them to another infertile couple; and one couple planned to use the stored embryos to attempt to become pregnant again. Many of the couples said they felt a lack of support, information and counseling about what to do with left over embryos, Reuters Health reports. Fertility experts say that the study highlights the need for ongoing counseling and support for couples who own stored embryos (Schieszer, Reuters Health, 10/14).

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