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decision pointShould I consider adoption as an alternative to infertility treatment?

If you have had infertility problems and are thinking of adopting a child, consider the following while making your decision:

  • Successful adoption and long-term parenting requires the commitment of both partners and a dependable support system. The need for a solid support system is even more important for a single adoptive parent.
  • There are many adoption options available to Americans, both domestically and abroad. The Internet can be an efficient and useful tool for researching adoption information.
  • The adoption application and placement process can be as time-consuming and expensive as infertility treatment. While a U.S. or international infant adoption can take a year or longer, a U.S. minority adoption can take less than a year.
  • Some adoption agencies have parental age and other restrictions for infant adoption. If you are in your mid-30s and are considering infant adoption, you may have to weigh agency requirements against your own timeline for starting an adoption process.

If you need more information about infertility treatment for comparison with adoption options, see the topic Fertility Problems.

What basic information do I need to know about adoption?

Information helps you feel more in control when faced with complex adoption and infertility decisions. First orient yourself with the following basics about adoption.

  • You can choose between many types of adoption, including various combinations of independent, public or private agency, domestic or international, and open or closed adoptions.
  • A small number of adoption information Web sites can provide you with detailed information. Start with the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC).
  • The adoption process involves extended waiting periods for information and processing, and ultimately bringing a child home.
  • Some adoption agencies provide supportive services to help adoptive families adjust to their new lives together.

What are the risks of adopting?

As with parenting a biological child, raising an adopted child confronts you with a list of unknowns. Physical, intellectual, and mental health issues can unfold over time whether your child is biological or adopted.

Adoption poses its own risks and concerns, such as the possibility that an adoption process may not go through, unknowns about a child's genetic and health background, and attachment and behavior issues related to separation or neglect. The birth mother and father may have the legal right to change their minds about placing their child for adoption. In some states, relinquishment is final as soon as the legal papers are signed; and in other states, a period of time is allowed for the birth parents to change their minds.

Are you ready to adopt?

As you prepare for this possibility:

  • Spend time exploring adoption options, costs, and timelines before you make a final decision to try or to discontinue infertility treatment.
  • Think and talk about questions to consider about adoption.
  • Be aware that one of you may be ready to adopt long before the other. Some couples report that it has taken months to years before they were both ready to start the adoption process.
  • Before proceeding with an adoption, allow yourselves time to grieve your lost hopes for a biological child.

If you need more information, see the topic Fertility Problems.

The decision about whether to adopt a child takes into account your personal feelings and the medical facts.

Deciding whether to adopt
Reasons to adopt a child Reasons not to adopt a child
  • You want to be a parent.
  • You have set a limit on infertility testing or treatment, after which adoption is your next step toward starting or adding to your family.
  • You are both committed to the plan to adopt. Or, you are a single person with a strong support network.
  • You understand the costs associated with adopting and have the resources for it.
  • You have concerns about passing along a genetic condition to a biological child.

Are there other reasons you might want to adopt?



  • You have a strong desire to have children who share your genetic traits.
  • One partner is not comfortable with raising an adopted child.
  • The expense of adopting is beyond your means.
  • You have family members with strong opposition to adoption.
  • If you are considering an independent adoption, your adoption attorney or counselor has noted signs that the birth mother or father will not follow through with the adoption.

Are there other reasons you might not want to adopt?



These personal stories may help you make your decision.

Use this worksheet to help you make your decision. After completing it, you should have a better idea of how you feel about adoption. Discuss the worksheet with your doctor.

Circle the answer that best applies to you.

I am certain that adoption is right for me. Yes No Unsure
My partner is certain that adoption is right for him/her. Yes No Unsure
Even though I do not have a parenting partner, I do have a strong support network in my community. Yes No Unsure
I would like to adopt a child who is as much like me as possible. Yes No Unsure
I can envision adopting and raising a child of a different race than mine. Yes No Unsure
I can envision adopting and raising a child with special emotional or physical needs. Yes No Unsure
I/we have the financial resources and stability to adopt and support a child. Yes No Unsure
I have researched the many adoption options available to us/me. Yes No Unsure
I/we would be interested in joining an adoption support group before adopting. Yes No Unsure
I am comfortable with the idea of making our/my personal and financial information known during the adoption application process. Yes No Unsure

Use the following space to list any other important concerns you have about this decision.






What is your overall impression?

Your answers in the above worksheet are meant to give you a general idea of where you stand on this decision. You may have one overriding reason to adopt or not adopt.

Check the box below that represents your overall impression about your decision.

Leaning toward adopting


Leaning toward NOT adopting

Author Bets Davis, MFA
Author Sandy Jocoy, RN
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Updated March 21, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 21, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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