24 year-old Frozen Embryo Results in a Record Breaking Healthy Baby!

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On November 25, 2017 a baby girl was born, but not just any baby. Emma Wren was born healthy and happy after spending 24 years cryopreserved, or frozen. Frozen in 1992, Baby Emma is now holds the title of the the longest-frozen embryo to ever result in a live birth.

Interestingly, that means baby Emma was frozen when her mother, Tina Gibson, was only a year and a half old! Tina (26) and her husband, Benjamin, adopted then embryo, Emma, from the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Center is a non-profit organization created to save the lives of embryos that are left over from in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproduction technologies.

NEDC Lab Director Carol Sommerfelt notes, “It is deeply moving and highly rewarding to see that embryos frozen 24.5 years ago using the old, early cryo-preservation techniques of slow freezing on day one of development at the pronuclear stage can result in 100 percent survival of the embryos with a 100 percent continued proper development to the day-3 embryo stage.”

How cool is that? (no pun intended!) 24 years frozen and then successfully transplanted to Tina Gibson’s uterus! How amazing that science has gotten us here!

In vitro fertilization is a technique that has helped many people realize the dream of becoming parents. But it’s one downfall is the surplus of embryos that remain after the procedure.  According to the National Catholic Reporter, there are over a million frozen embryos in storage across the country, and only about 10% of them will ever be adopted like Emma. Some will be donated to science, often for stem cell research. However, the vast majority will be destroyed.

These outcomes, of course, are of major concern to pro-life groups who believe life begins at conception. Many couples who undergo in vitro fertilization have more embryos in storage for their next pregnancy. However, for whatever reason, they decide against using them and this becomes a major moral dilemma for the pro-life couple.

Embryo adoption is great option for couples who are having difficulty conceiving, but the mother is otherwise able to carry a baby to term. Although she shares no DNA with her baby, she is still able to experience the joy of pregnancy and childbirth. She also can control prenatal care, which of course is vitally important.

Conversely, couples who have, for lack of a better term, “extra” embryos, either because of a successful in vitro fertilization or perhaps another reason not to use the embryos, can now adopt them out to couples who desperately want children. For many mothers, their embryos, frozen or in utero, are their babies. Many couples do not wish for them to be destroyed or donated to science. Having the option to out them up for adoption through a donation program is a wonderful win-win situation for the biological parents and the adoptive parents.

In this case, baby Emma’s biological mother has given an incredible gift to the Gibson Family through the National Embryo Donation Center.

Dad, Benjamin, is clearly smitten, saying, “Emma is such a sweet miracle, I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.” I would have to agree!


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