Just this past October news broke of a magical fertility story. Twins were born from the oldest embryos on record! These beautiful twins, Lydia and Timothy Ridgeway entered the world on October 31, 2022.
Now just how old were these embryos? They were 30 years old! The embryos were frozen at -322 °F (-196 °C) in liquid nitrogen on April 22, 1992. They were created using in vitro fertilization by an anonymous married couple. Now a unique aspect of the in vitro fertilization process is that it can produce more embryos than are needed, the ones not used can then be donated to science or to people who want children.
Once frozen, these embryos sat in storage in a fertility lab on the West Coast until 2007, when the couple who created them decided to donate the remaining embryos to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. The couple had high hopes that another person or couple would be able to use these embryos to start a family of their own.
Decades later along came Rachel and Philip Ridgeway from Portland, Oregon. They already had four children of their own, but upon hearing about embryo adoption, they knew that they wanted to go down that road. Now you may wonder, why choose such old embryos?
The couple spent some time looking through a donor database that lists certain characteristics about the donors when they’re made known. In the end Philip and Rachel favored donations with lower ID numbers as this meant they would have been the earliest to be entered into the database. They weren’t looking for the oldest frozen embryos, they simply wanted the embryos that had been waiting the longest.
The whole situation is a bit mind-boggling. To put things in perspective Philip was only five years old when the embryos were frozen in 1992.
Despite having to wrap their minds around all of this, Rachel and Philip are loving having their twins home safe and so are their other four children, all under the age of ten!
Are There Any Other ‘Old Embryos’?
Surprisingly, the answer to this is yes! Older embryos are 100 percent wanted and chosen by many couples. Funny enough the previous record holder for the ‘oldest’ baby was held by Molly Everette Gibson, born on October 26, 2022. She was born from an embryo that had been frozen for 28 years, not far off from the twins’ embryo age. Even more interesting is that Molly actually took the record from her very own sister!
What’s super unique about the news of the ‘oldest’ baby is that embryos can be frozen pretty much indefinitely. Once thawed the survival rate is around 80 percent and only a fraction of the transferred embryos will result in live births. The factors that are more likely to contribute to a successful embryo transfer and resulting live birth is the age of the embryo donor and recipient. The deep freeze is just a long nap and for Lydia and Timothy it was worth the wait. The twins are expected to be as healthy as any other person.
As thorough as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is with tracking success rates and other data for reproductive services, they do not specifically track the ages of frozen embryos. This means that it’s possible that there are even older frozen embryos that have been used without its age being recorded.
Couples who have chosen to donate their embryos should feel confident knowing that many couples are choosing embryos that are 10, 20, even 30 years old!