In May 2006 BioNews, the on-line news service, relayed reports of 'twin' girls born sixteen years apart following IVF treatment. Jane and Alan Davis began IVF treatment in March 1989. Thirty-three eggs were collected, and fertilised with Mr Davis' sperm, producing a number of viable embryos. Three were implanted and 22 others were kept in frozen storage to potentially be used in the future. Emma Davis, now sixteen years old, was born in December 1989. Her sister, Niamh, who began life as an embryo at the same time as Emma, was born in December 2005. According to UK law, IVF embryos can usually only be kept for five years but with the possibility of an extension. Doctors treating the couple decided that their circumstances were so exceptional that they should be granted a special dispensation to keep their frozen embryos in storage longer. Siblings have been born up to 21 years apart after the use of frozen sperm, but this means that 16 years is now the record for siblings being born from the same batch of IVF embryos.
'We feel incredibly lucky that we've finally been able to complete our family. It's been a long and traumatic journey, but we're so glad we never gave up', said Mrs Davis who has had ten miscarriages, three ectopic pregnancies and lost a third child - conceived from the same batch of IVF embryos. The ectopic pregnancies, which followed after Mrs Davis conceived naturally after the birth of Emma, damaged Mrs Davis' fallopian tubes so badly that she had no chance of conceiving naturally again. After saving money for more IVF treatment, in 2002, the Davises told Emma they wanted to try for another child using an embryo stored since she was conceived. However, despite getting pregnant, they lost the baby when six months old. A second attempt ended in a miscarriage and doctors told the couple that embryos could not be kept frozen forever without losing quality.
In April 2005, the couple decided to have one final attempt at IVF. 'We knew that after this attempt, only three frozen embryos would remain, which might not be enough to keep trying', said Mrs Davis. This time the pregnancy was uncomplicated. Dr Goswamy, who treated the couple initially at London's Churchill Clinic, and then later at the Harley Street Fertility Centre, said that he believed 16 years is the longest time between siblings born from embryos created at the same time. 'As far as I know, this is a record', he said, adding 'I don't know of any other case, anywhere in the world, where children from the same batch of eggs have been born 16 years apart'.
Although theoretically very long term freezing is possible, the normal period for embryo storage in the UK is limited to five years, because of the risks of embryo deterioration. However, this story seems to suggest that longer-term freezing carries few significant dangers. Planer, the company that developed the freezing equipment in which the embryos were pre stored, said that Niamh's birth 'is believed to set a new record for viability in the long term'. The previous record was twelve years, when in February 2004 it was reported that a 39-year old Israeli woman had given birth to twins using frozen embryos created twelve years prior. On that occasion, the embryos had been frozen prior to storage in a controlled rate freezer also made by Planer.
Reported in The Daily Mail and at BioNews http://www.progress.org.uk/News/