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19-Year-Old Donated Cryopreserved Embryo Makes a New Mom! Blog Feature
Lisa Rosenthal

By: Lisa Rosenthal on August 22nd, 2013

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19-Year-Old Donated Cryopreserved Embryo Makes a New Mom!

Embryo | Freezing

Cryopreservation History with New Baby

cryopreservation embryo freezingA 19-year-old embryo and we have a new baby! Amazing that an embryo can be frozen through cryopreservation for that long and still create a happy and healthy baby. And family. (Thanks Liz Swire Falker, for bringing this story about the second oldest cyropreserved human embryo in history to my attention!)


Kelly Burke, a NASA scientist, used an embryo donated by a couple who had twins in 1994.


Amazing is the word.


Doubtful that anyone knew that when those embryos were frozen (cryopreserved) that they would be viable this many years later. That in fact, cryopreserved embryos are fast catching up on “fresh” embryos, in terms of pregnancy rates.


Yep, totally amazing.


Fertility Specialist Dr. Spencer RichlinAnd yesterday, for lunch, I spent time with Drs. Spencer Richlin and Shaun Williams from Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and an area Obstetrician/Gynecologist, talking about all of these things and more.


Really fascinating to hear some of the clinical reasons behind why some things work better than others. Really challenging to keep up in a conversation between physicians and clinicians! Really, really challenging.

Embryo Donation, Freezing and Success Rates 

infertility doctor Shawn WilliamsWhat I took away about embryo donation and why a frozen embryo will often result in a pregnancy when a fresh does not is the hormone levels that occur when a woman is stimulated to produce more than one egg. That, basically, estradiol is a certain level for one egg to occur and become large enough to ovulate. Therefore, when a woman is stimulated with fertility medications to produce 6-18 (or even more) eggs that the hormone levels go up correspondingly. What follows is that an embryo put back into a woman’s body with hormone levels so much higher than normal is that sometimes the embryo doesn’t implant.


And, as I understood it yesterday, sometimes there are slightly higher consequences of lower birth rate babies. Please don’t take this as a reason to be alarmed or upset, especially if you have had a transfer under the circumstances described above. There is research to support these findings (of lower birth rate babies), but we have had over a million IVF babies born and the vast majority of them have been healthy.




That appears to be the word of the day for me.


I am amazed and grateful that a couple in 1994 would be generous enough to freeze their eggs and then so long afterwards be willing to donate them to another woman so that she could fulfill her dream of having a family.


Kelly Burke had to answer a lot of questions and went through a procedure that seems similar to adoption to be able to use these embryos. Many of us in the field of infertility and fertility treatment prefer not to use the word adoption and reserve that for children. Embryos, as we all know, often implant and that will frequently result in a healthy pregnancy and child. And sometimes it does not and there is no pregnancy and no baby. That is why many of us feel that the term adoption should be reserved for a baby. The term embryo donation suits this situation better.


Whatever you would like to call it, there is a baby that was conceived almost 20 years ago; who has full genetic siblings who are in college and that is nothing short of amazing.


Congratulations to all the adults, physicians, clinicians and parents involved for making this happen.


Yes, simply amazing.


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About Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.