According to doctors, it’s possible an older frozen embryo may have been used; and although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks success rates and data around reproductive technologies, it does not track how long embryos have been frozen. But there’s no evidence of an older embryo resulting in a live birth.
“There is something mind-boggling about it,” Philip Ridgeway said as he and his wife cradled their newborns in their laps at their home outside Portland, Oregon. “I was 5 years old when God gave life to Lydia and Timothy, and he’s been preserving that life ever since.”
“In a sense, they’re our oldest children, even though they’re our smallest children,” Ridgeway added. The Ridgeways have four other children, ages 8, 6, 3 and almost 2, none conceived via IVF or donors.
The embryos were created for an anonymous married couple using in-vitro fertilization. The husband was in his early 50s, and they used a 34-year-old egg donor.
The embryos were frozen on April 22, 1992.
For nearly thirty years, they sat in storage on tiny straws kept in liquid nitrogen at nearly 200 degrees below zero, in a device that looks much like a propane tank.
The embryos were kept at a fertility lab on the West Coast until 2007, when the couple who created them donated the embryos to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, in hopes another couple might be able to use them. The five embryos were overnighted in specially outfitted tanks to Knoxville, said Dr. James Gordon, the Ridgeways’ doctor.
“We’ve never had in our minds a set number of children we’d like to have,” Philip said. “We’ve always thought we’ll have as many as God wants to give us, and … when we heard about embryo adoption, we thought that’s something we would like to do.
The medical name for the process the Ridgeways went through is embryo donation.
When people undergo IVF, they may produce more embryos than they use. Extra embryos can be cryopreserved for future use, donated to research or training to advance the science of reproductive medicine, or donated to people who would like to have children.
As with any other human tissue donation, embryos must meet certain US Food and Drug Administration eligibility guidelines to be donated, including being screened for certain infectious diseases.