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Adoption vs. IVF: What's Right for You?

5 Things to Consider When Moving from IVF to Adoption

When you want nothing more than to become a parent, an infertility diagnosis can be a huge hurdle. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams of parenthood.

But you do have options. You can get help from our experienced professionals by calling 1-800-ADOPTION or click here.

Many couples eventually reach a point in their journey where they have narrowed those options down to two possibilities: adoption vs. IVF.

This guide to IVF vs. adoption is intended to help you make a decision you feel good about, whatever it may be. 

If you're a prospective birth mother deciding whether putting your baby up for adoption is right for you, check out our resource guides for choosing adoption under your circumstances. You can also get free help by clicking here or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-ADOPTION.

Adoption vs. IVF: An Overview

Deciding on IVF or adoption isn’t easy. There’s no “obvious” choice, and one option is no “better” or “worse” than the other. Instead, it is up to every individual family to decide what is right for them based on their individual circumstances.

While they are two very different processes, IVF and adoption do have a few things in common. Both can help hopeful parents to add a child to their families. Both can be emotionally challenging processes. And both can involve significant investments of time, energy and money.

That being said, there are also some important differences to consider when you are debating IVF or adoption:

  • Costs: IVF costs roughly $12,000 per cycle, excluding medications — and many couples must undergo multiple cycles to achieve a successful pregnancy. Adoption costs can vary from very little or nothing at all (as in a foster care adoption) to $70,000 or more. Most couples debating adoption vs. IVF are most interested in adopting an infant, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Success Rates: IVF has a success rate of maybe 40 percent (for women under age 35; that success rate declines as women get older). Hopeful parents often have to undergo multiple cycles of IVF to achieve a successful pregnancy — and there is a significant risk that the treatments are never successful at all. IVF is physically taxing, emotionally draining and can quickly deplete a couple’s finances, sometimes leaving them unable to turn to other family-building options when it is ultimately unsuccessful. Adoption, on the other hand, can also be an emotionally challenging, unpredictable and expensive process — but it does guarantee a child at the end.
  • Physical Impact: IVF is a medical process that requires fertility medications and injections, an egg retrieval surgery and an embryo transfer. Like any medical process, this procedure involves certain side effects and risks, including headaches, hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain and more. For many women, these physical sacrifices are worth it in order to experience pregnancy and childbirth; others decide after multiple rounds of failed attempts that the process is too demanding with no guaranteed outcome.
  • Genetic Relationship: Perhaps the most obvious difference between IVF and adoption is the genetic connection (or lack thereof). IVF allows parents to have a child who is biologically related to them, while adoption does not. This doesn’t mean that adoptive parents love their children any less, of course, but some parents choose IVF over adoption because it is important to them to maintain that biological relationship.
  • Level of Control: As you already know, there is only so much any parent can control about their family-building journey — even those who conceive and carry a pregnancy the “old-fashioned” way. However, parents who choose adoption after IVF often feel that they regain some sense of control; while failed fertility treatments can make you feel as if your body is betraying you, adoption does give parents some degree of choice in terms of where they adopt a child from, how old their child is, what special needs they are comfortable with, etc. But, as any parent will tell you, there’s only so much you can prepare for!

To learn more about adoption vs. IVF, see a more in depth description of each process below.

In Vitro Fertilization

For most couples, fertility treatments are the first step when having difficulty becoming pregnant. Fertility treatments could actually describe several different infertility options, but IVF in particular is the most common of the assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In IVF, a physician harvests a sperm and egg cell from each partner and combines the two in a laboratory dish to form an embryo. When ready, the embryo will be implanted in the woman’s uterus. If all goes well, her pregnancy will then continue just like any other.

When debating IVF vs. adoption, it’s important to consider the costs. More than 85,000 women each year undergo IVF, a procedure which costs approximately $12,000 per cycle — not including the medications, which can run an additional $3,000–$5,000. Keeping in mind that IVF works maybe 40 percent of the time, this can very quickly exhaust a couple’s family-building budget, and there is never any guarantee of a child. Age and general health impact the effectiveness of the process as well, so these things must also be considered when pursuing IVF vs. adoption.

It’s also important to note the physical aspects of IVF. Many women find the experience notably uncomfortable, considering the semi-invasive procedures, self-injecting medications, and side effects. The simple truth, though, is that when choosing between IVF or adoption, IVF is the only one of these options that can allow you to experience a pregnancy and share any genetics with your child.


For many couples, moving from IVF to adoption eventually happens when IVF fails or has become too expensive to continue. However, that’s not to say that everyone must first choose IVF vs adoption; other couples may decide right away that adoption is how they were meant to grow their family. Adoption has many benefits, and no family-building option is better than another if it ultimately brings you a child.

If considering adoption after IVF (or instead of IVF), it’s important to know that there are different types of adoption to pursue, and these different types can affect every detail of the entire process.

  • Domestic Infant Adoption: Domestic infant adoption is the process that occurs when a pregnant woman in the United States chooses adoption for her unborn baby. In this form of adoption, she’ll get to choose her child’s adoptive family, get to know them, and even maintain an open relationship with them as her child grows up. Parents deciding between IVF or adoption often choose this path because it is the best option for parents looking to raise a newborn baby from birth.
  • Foster Care Adoption: When a child in the foster care system is legally available for adoption, this means that a court has already terminated the rights of his or her biological parents, and they will be unable to ever regain custody. The goal of the foster care system is almost always to reunite a child with his or her biological family, and birth parents are often given many years and several opportunities to complete a reunion plan. If a child has been legally cleared for adoption, then, it is likely that the child is older. It’s also common for children within the foster care system to have special needs.
  • International Adoption: While new laws and regulations are making international adoption a little less common, this type of adoption refers to parents who add a child from another country into their family. This process varies greatly depending on the country the parents choose to adopt from.

Because the different types of adoptions and the resources necessary to complete them vary, the costs do as well. Foster care adoption is almost always the most cost-effective form of adoption with an average cost of $2,744, while a private domestic adoption can cost tens of thousands of dollars. International adoption costs heavily depend on the country a family adopts from. Keep in mind, however, that as long as you work with a good agency, choosing adoption does guarantee that you’ll become a parent, while money spent on IVF may not result in anything.

Of course, choosing adoption over IVF means that you will have no genetic relation to your child. However, many couples that consider moving from IVF to adoption or ultimately decide to pursue adoption after IVF find that it’s not their desire to see their own genetics in a child that really matters — it’s the desire to be parents.

Deciding between IVF, adoption and your other family-building options is not an easy process, and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. We encourage you to talk over your options with your spouse, the rest of your family, and an infertility counselor before starting down any one path. You can get a free infertility consultation from one of our professional staff members if you click here or call 1-800-ADOPTION

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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