The baby girl, born on November 25, 2017, was an embryo that was frozen on October 14, 1992. The baby’s birth mother was born just about a year and a half before.
A ten-day-old embryo [Image by Gist Croft/Alessia Deglincerti/Ali H. Brivanlou; The Rockefeller University]
Benjamin and Tina Gibson decided that they wanted to adopt an embryo in August of last year. By the time December 2016 rolled around, they were picking embryos based on the donor profiles. After some time sifting through over 300 embryo donations, they finally chose one. It was only until they were already deep into the adoption process that the Gibsons realized how special they embryo they chose was.
Couples who have undergone in vitro fertilization can donate "leftover" embryos.
The embryo was cryopreserved for almost a quarter of a century, making it the longest frozen human embryo so far. It was thawed on March 13 of this year, and it was on that day that the Gibsons discovered how old the embryo was. “Do you realise I'm only 25?” said Tina Gibson, now 26. “This embryo and I could have been best friends.”
The question, of course, is whether or not being frozen that long is good for an embryo. As far as the embryo the Gibsons chose is concerned, a quarter of a century in a freezer isn’t an issue. The Gibson’s baby girl was born weighing 6 pounds and 8 ounces, and is perfectly healthy.
Embryo adoption is becoming more and more popular as time goes on. For one thing, it’s less expensive than traditional adoption. It also has more certainty than in-vitro fertilization (IVF) since there’s an already-formed embryo. These embryos are usually leftovers from couples who have successfully completed IVF.
Benjamin and Tina Gibson with their "snow baby" daughter. [Photo by Southern Charm Portraits]
A healthy embryo adopted by a healthy mother with no medical issues before her pregnancy is 50% more likely to result in a successful birth than IVF. Adoptive parents can also experience pregnancy if they want to be able to do so but they’re unable to conceive. Also, just like in traditional adoption, couples in embryo adoption can choose between open and anonymous adoptions.
Benjamin Gibson, Tina’s husband, was found to have fertility issues due to cystic fibrosis. They then turned to the National Embryo Donation Center, the organization that provided them with a fertilized embryo. Doctors with the organization fondly refer to the embryos as “snow babies” due to the length of time they spend in a frozen state.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!