Twins have successfully been birthed from the longest-frozen embryos ever, resulting in a new record. The embryos had been frozen over thirty years ago.
An anonymous married couple froze the fertilized eggs. This was done through an in-vitro fertilization program with a 34-year old egg donor. The male was in his early fifties.
A fertility clinic on the U.S. West Coast stored the eggs at -128C (-200F) in liquid nitrogen on April 22, 1992, and they remained there until 2007. The partners to whom the fertilized, frozen eggs belonged then decided to donate them to the NEDC in Knoxville, Tennessee to be used by others.
Rachel Ridgeway from Oregon, who was already a mother of four, and her husband, Philip Ronald Ridgeway, were the pair that received the fetus from which the infants were born on October 31st in Tennessee. In the father’s words, the event was “mind-boggling.”
In speaking to BBC, Rachel and Philip Ridgeway described how they had specifically asked the donation center about a category called “special consideration” while looking for potential donors. It is a term used for embryos for which it is difficult to find willing recipients for a variety of reasons.
While going through the selection process, they utilized a donor database that did not list how long embryos had been frozen. Rather, the only information provided was the donors’ characteristics, including ethnicity, age, genetic and health history, and education among other things.
Under the assumption that those listed with earlier donor numbers had been at the center the longest, the Ridgeways then sought to narrow their choice down to those profiles.
As Rachel’s husband explained, “We weren’t looking to get the embryos that have been frozen the longest in the world. We just wanted the ones that had been waiting the longest.”
“Going into this, we knew that we could trust God to do whatever he had sovereignly planned and that their age really had no factor,” his wife, Rachel Ridgeway, said. “It was just a matter of whether or not that was in God’s plans.”
Birth sets a new record
According to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), a private, Christian-led organization that states it has helped bring more than 1,200 infants from donated embryos to life, the birth of the Ridgeways’ twins likely set a new record.
NEDC’s previous record holder was Molly Gibson, born in 2020 from an embryo frozen for nearly twenty-seven years.
Molly took the record from her sister, Emma, who was born from another such embryo that had been encapsulated for twenty-four years.
Adoption of thirty-year-old embryos a reassurance for patients
Dr. John David Gordon, who performed the transfer said, “The decision…to adopt these embryos should reassure patients who wonder if anyone would be willing to adopt the embryos that they created 5, 10, 20 years ago.”
According to Gordon, “That answer is a resounding yes!”
The NEDC said in a statement that it hoped the news of the births would “encourage others to experience the blessings of embryo adoption for themselves.”
The twins born from frozen embryos are the first of the Ridgeways’ children, aged one to eight years old, to have come from IVF donors.
“I was five years old when God gave life to Lydia and Timothy,” Philip Ridgeway told CNN in speaking about his new offspring, “and he’s been preserving that life ever since. In a sense, they’re our oldest children, even though they’re our smallest children.”