Tennessee twins are born from embryos that were frozen 30 years ago

They are the couple's oldest children, although they are also the youngest.
Ameya Paleja
The twins born after embryos were frozen for 30 years
The twins born after embryos were frozen for 30 years

National Embryo Donation Center 

On October 31, Rachel Ridgeway gave birth to twins Lydia and Timothy Ridgeway at a hospital in Tennessee in U.S. The births would have proceeded normally as any other birth at a hospital, except that the twins were conceived way back in the year 1992, CNN reported.

Rachel and her husband, Philip, are already parents to four other children, but a few years ago came across the term embryo donation and decided to have more children by undergoing a medical procedure where frozen embryos are implanted in a female's embryo.

Why are embryos frozen?

Couples who face hurdles in conceiving naturally often turn to procedures such as In-vitro fertilization (IVF), where the male sperm and female egg are fertilized in a laboratory setting to improve the chance of success. In such a procedure, a donor egg or sperm can also be used, often resulting in the creation of multiple embryos, from which only a few are transplanted.

The rest of the embryos can either be donated for medical research purposes or cryopreserved for future use by the same couple or others looking to have children. In the case of the twins Lydia and Timothy, they were among the five embryos that were frozen for an unidentified couple in April 1992.

They stayed frozen in liquid nitrogen at temperatures nearly 200 degrees below zero and were kept at a fertility center on the West Coat till 2007, after the couple donated them to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, hoping that they would be made available to 'embryo adoption' to another couple.

Although not technically or legally an adoption process, couples can opt for implanting embryos without having to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of IVF. In such a scenario, the parents do not have a genetic relation to the child, although they can directly but can go through the process of pregnancy and raising a child.

Embryo adoption

The NEDC is a faith-based private organization that requires embryo recipients to be in a heterosexual relationship, married for at least three years, and undergo a family assessment, before providing them embryos for the medical procedure.

Hopeful parents vetted through this process then access the database where donor characteristics such as ethnicity, age, height, weight, health history, education, occupation, music leanings, etc., are noted, and they can pick the embryos of their choice.

When Rachel and Philip Ridgeway learned about this option, they wanted to give these frozen embryos a chance to be born and pick the ones that had been waiting for the longest.

The five embryos were shipped to a medical center, where they were thawed after 30 long years. Two were found to be unviable while the couple decided to implant the remaining three, a procedure carried out in March this year.

Studies have shown that frozen embryos have a 25-40 percent chance of live birth, but two out of three embryos completed the pregnancy term in this case. "I was 5 years old when God gave life to Lydia and Timothy, and he’s been preserving that life ever since,” Philip, father of the twins, told CNN. "There is something mind-boggling about it. In a sense, they’re our oldest children, even though they’re our smallest children".