Discarding IVF embryos: reporting on global practices

  • M. SimopoulouEmail author
  • K. Sfakianoudis
  • P. Giannelou
  • A. Rapani
  • E. Maziotis
  • P. Tsioulou
  • S. Grigoriadis
  • E. Simopoulos
  • D. Mantas
  • M. Lambropoulou
  • M. Koutsilieris
  • K. Pantos
  • J. C. Harper
Assisted Reproduction Technologies



To provide a global scale report on a representative sample of the clinical embryology community depicting the practice of discarding supernumerary IVF embryos.


A web-based questionnaire titled “Anonymous questionnaire on embryo disposal practices” was designed in order to ensure anonymous participation of practicing clinical embryologists around the world.


During a data collection period of 8 months, 703 filled-in questionnaires from 65 countries were acquired. According to the data acquired, the majority of practitioners, dispose of embryos by placing them directly in a trash can strictly dedicated for embryo disposal for both fresh and frozen cycles (39% and 36.7% respectively). Moreover, 66.4% of practitioners discard the embryos separately—case by case—at different time points during the day. Over half of embryologists (54%) wait until day 6 to discard the surplus embryos, while 65.5% do not implement a specially allocated incubator space as a designated waiting area prior to disposal. The majority of 63.1% reported that this is a witnessed procedure. The vast majority of embryologists (93%) do not employ different protocols for different groups of patients. Nonetheless, 17.8% reported the request to perform a ceremony for these embryos. Assessing the embryologists’ perspective, 59.5% of participants stated that the embryology practice would benefit from a universally accepted and practiced protocol.


This study uniquely provides insight into global embryo disposal practices and trends. Results highlight the divergence between reported practices, while indicating the significance on standardization of practice, with embryologists acknowledging the need for a universally accepted protocol implementation.


Surplus embryos Embryo disposal practices IVF 



We are very appreciative to all embryologists, clinicians, and scientists at the Department of Physiology of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School, at the Centre for Human Reproduction at Genesis Hospital, and at the Assisted Conception Unit of the 2nd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Aretaieion Hospital. The authors also thank Dr. Gerry Celia Laboratory Director and Assistant Professor at Jones Institute at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk for sharing the survey in order to reach embryologists on a global scale. Finally, we acknowledge the input of all practitioners taking the time to contribute to our survey by sharing their protocols and practices.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10815_2019_1592_MOESM1_ESM.docx (909 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 909 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Simopoulou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • K. Sfakianoudis
    • 3
  • P. Giannelou
    • 1
    • 3
  • A. Rapani
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Maziotis
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • P. Tsioulou
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Grigoriadis
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Simopoulos
    • 4
  • D. Mantas
    • 5
  • M. Lambropoulou
    • 4
  • M. Koutsilieris
    • 1
  • K. Pantos
    • 3
  • J. C. Harper
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Physiology, Medical SchoolNational and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece
  2. 2.Assisted Conception Unit, 2nd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aretaieion Hospital, Medical SchoolNational and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece
  3. 3.Centre for Human ReproductionGenesis Athens ClinicAthensGreece
  4. 4.Democritus University of ThraceAlexandroupolisGreece
  5. 5.Conceive - The Gynecology CenterDubaiUnited Arab Emirates
  6. 6.Reproductive Science Group, Institute for Women’s HealthUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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