In a rare medical feat, a woman has successfully given birth to a baby from the longest-frozen embryo. Baby Emma was born on 25 November, about 24 years after she was conceived, making her just a year younger to her mother in terms of chronological conception.
On 14 October 1992, an anonymous couple created an embryo for in-vitro fertilisation. However, instead of being implanted, the embryo was frozen.
After staying a "snowbaby" for almost a quarter of a century, the frozen embryo was adopted by East Tennessee couple Benjamin and Tina Gibson from the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), Knoxville.
The embryo was transferred to Tina's uterus in March and completing a successful pregnancy term, she delivered the baby girl less than a month ago. Baby Emma, weighing six pounds and eight ounces, is healthy and doing fine, according to media reports.
She now holds the world record for being the longest frozen embryo to result in a successful birth. The previous record was held by a child in Virginia, who was born from a 20-year-old embryo, CNN reported.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Tina admitted to being shocked after knowing how long the embryo had been frozen. "Honestly I was just really worried that it wouldn't work," she said. "I was like 'I don't want a world record, I want a baby!'"
Tina was born in 1991, which technically means that her daughter was conceived just over a year after her birth. "I'm just 25... me and her, we could've been best friends," she said.
"Emma is such a sweet miracle," Benjamin said of his daughter. "I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago."
The couple are married for the past seven years, but could not conceive because Benjamin has cystic fibrosis, in which infertility is common. They have been fostering children and were happy doing it until Tina's father informed them about embryo adoption and the couple gave it a try.
The doctor who transferred the embryo believes the surgery— very similar to an IVF procedure — could inspire people to save and donate embryos for adoption. "We hope this story is a clarion call to all couples who have embryos in long-term storage to consider this life-affirming option for their embryos," NEDC Medical Director Dr Jeffrey Keenan said in a news release.
"It is deeply moving and highly rewarding to see that embryos frozen 24.5 years ago using the old, early cryopreservation 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," NEDC Lab Director Carol Sommerfelt added.
In an IVF cycle, after embryos are implanted in a woman's body and the procedure is complete, the leftover embryos are frozen to keep them in a healthy state for adoption in future by parents who cannot conceive a child naturally. These frozen embryos are medically termed as cryofrozen embryos and popularly referred to as "snowbabies".
Couples interested in giving birth to children through these snowbabies go for embryo adoption. According to a Pacific Standard report, the process of embryo transplant and subsequent childbirth has been nearly 50% successful in cases involving a healthy embryo and mother with no medical problems.