Embryo adoption is new trend for infertile
A Virginia couple overcame their struggle with infertility by adopting two sons: one a tot from Russia and the other a frozen embryo left over from in-vitro fertilization.
John and Suzanne Stanmeyer of Potomac Falls took home Alec, now 5, from Vladivostok in April last year after paying a $25,000 to $30,000 fee.
Mrs. Stanmeyer delivered the couple’s second son, Nicholas, on July 25, after embryos donated by the child’s genetic parents were implanted in her womb. The donors, whose identity the Stanmeyers do not know, achieved pregnancy without the need for Nicholas’ embryo and agreed to donate embryos to help the Stanmeyers build a family.
Nicholas is a lively and healthy 4-month-old. The Stanmeyers are proponents of embryo adoption, which they advocate as a way both to make some infertile couples parents and to save the lives of frozen embryos that otherwise would be destroyed.
The trend is growing as more infertile couples learn about it. Carol Sommerfelt, embryologist for the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tenn., which handled the Stanmeyers’ pregnancy, said cases number about 200 nationally.
“I’ve seen significant growth in the three years I’ve been here. It’s definitely on the increase,” Mrs. Sommerfelt said.
Prospective parents are learning about the option from a variety of sources, she said, including fertility clinics, adoption agencies and physicians, especially those who are pro-life.
Mrs. Sommerfelt said NEDC has performed 71 embryo trans- fers resulting in 42 pregnancies since opening in 2003. Another facility, Snowflakes Embryonic Donation Program in Fullerton, Calif., reported 121 births since starting in 1997 and has 18 clients awaiting childbirth, said Kathryn Diters, director of development. A center in Cincinnati known as Embryos Alive said yesterday that it has had seven pregnancies in the past three years.
A 2003 poll of more than 400 fertility clinics nationwide found that about 400,000 embryos were frozen in storage. “That number has definitely increased since then,” Mrs. Diters said.
President Bush focused attention on embryo adoption in 2002 as an alternative to embryonic-stemcell research. The federal government provides grants of about $1 million yearly to raise awareness of this alternative.
The fee for the recipients of the embryo that became Nicholas Stanmeyer was about $11,000. It would have been $5,000 if Mrs. Stanmeyer had become pregnant in the first attempt or $8,000 if two tries were required, but it took her three attempts.
Mrs. Sommerfelt and Marti Bailey, spokeswoman for NEDC, said the national average for pregnancies resulting from frozen transferred embryos is 25 percent to 27 percent. “But our pregnancy rate is currently 54 percent,” Mrs. Sommerfelt said on Nov. 28 in a telephone interview.
Critics of embryo adoptions include those who support embryonic-stem-cell research and theologians who worry that the practice could create a market for embryos.
John Stanmeyer has a lively and healthy 4-month-old son, Nicholas, after he and his wife, Suzanne, received a frozen embryo left over from another couple’s in-vitro procedure.