Em­bryo adop­tion is new trend for in­fer­tile

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joyce Howard Price

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.

Nancy Pas­tor / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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.

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