Born Oct. 31, babies Lydia and Timothy Ridgeway were born from what may be the longest frozen embryos to ever result in a live birth, according to the National Embryo Donation Center.
The previous known record holder was Molly Gibson, born in 2020 from an embryo that had been frozen for nearly 27 years. Molly took the file from her sister Emma, who was born from an embryo that had been frozen for 24 years.
According to the doctors, it is possible that an older frozen embryo was used; and while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks success rates and reproductive technology data, it does not track how long embryos are frozen. But there is no evidence that an older embryo results in a live birth.
“There’s something mind-blowing about it,” Philip Ridgeway said as he and his wife cradled their newborn babies in their laps at their home outside Portland, Oregon. “I was 5 years old when God gave life to Lydia and Timothy, and he has preserved that life ever since.”
“In a sense, they are our oldest children, even though they are our youngest,” Ridgeway added. The Ridgeways have four other children, ages 8, 6, 3 and almost 2, none of them conceived through IVF or donors.
The embryos were created for an anonymous married couple through 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 almost thirty years, they have been stored on tiny straws kept in liquid nitrogen at almost 200 degrees below zero, in a device that looks a lot like a propane tank.
The embryos were stored 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 the hope that another couple can use them. The five embryos spent the night in specially equipped tanks in Knoxville, said Dr. James Gordon, the Ridgeways doctor.
“We never had a set number of children in mind that we would like to have,” Philip said. “We always thought we’d have as many as God wants to give us, and…when we heard about embryo adoption, we thought that was something we’d 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 given 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 testing for certain infectious diseases.