Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Wednesday, 6 July 2005 18:55 UK

Longest frozen embryo baby born

Image of Debbie and Laina by San Francisco Chronicle/Chris Stewart
Debbie and Laina, photographed by Chris Stewart for the SF Chronicle

A healthy baby girl has been born in the US after spending the last 13 years in frozen suspension as an embryo.

This is thought to be the longest an embryo has been frozen and resulted in a health baby.

Baby Laina Beasley has two teenage siblings who were conceived through IVF at the same time as she was frozen, which technically makes her a triplet.

Her parents' path to having her was far from smooth, highlighting the risks of a largely unregulated industry.

Set backs

When Debbie Beasley, now 45, began her fertility treatment in at the University of California Irvine Center in the 1990s, the doctors used her eggs and her husband Kent's sperm to make 12 embryos.

Debbie had three embryos transferred to her womb and became pregnant with triplets, but lost one halfway through her pregnancy.

Twins Jeffrey and Carleigh were born in 1992.

Three years later, they discovered their fertility doctor, Dr Ricardo Asch, and his colleagues were accused of taking eggs and embryos from parents without telling them and implanting them in other women or sending them to outside scientists for research.

The clinic was shut down and Dr Asch left the US.

It is about effective informed consent so that the people involved understand the full implications
A spokeswoman from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Debbie and Kent were told that some of their remaining embryos had been send to an East Coast university for experiments. They managed to track down eight.

In the summer of 1996, Debbie and Kent decided they wanted to try to have another baby using the frozen embryos.

They were told that the chances of success were about 20% or one in five - about half don't survive the thawing process and of those that do, many do not thrive once in the womb.

Debbie had two of the frozen embryos thawed for transfer. However, she had a severe reaction to a fertility drug and went into shock and nearly died. The two thawed embryos perished.

It wasn't until seven years later that she felt well enough to try for a baby again.

I smell her and kiss her and I still can't believe she is here
Debbie Beasley talking about baby Laina

Last June, with the help of Dr Steven Katz and colleagues at the Fertility Associates of the Bay Area in San Francisco, Debbie and Kent had their six remaining embryos thawed.

Four appeared to have survived and one looked perfect. All four were transferred to Debbie's womb.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Debbie said: "I put my hand over my lower abdomen and said, 'Welcome Home'. They had been in a cold place for so long. Now it was over. Whether God took them to heaven or they became babies, it was OK."

One of the embryos did become a healthy baby - Lania - even though she was born five weeks early.

Debbie said: "I still look at her and can't believe it. I smell her and kiss her and I still can't believe she is here."

Fertility laws

There are many differences between the US and the UK in terms of fertility laws and practice.

In the UK, frozen embryos are typically stored for only five years and sperm and egg for 10 years. These storage periods can be extended in extenuating circumstances, for example if a couple's fertility problems are particularly severe.

Also, written consent is required from both the man and the women for the use and storage of their sperm, eggs and any resultant embryos.

This consent can be changed at any time as long as the sperm, eggs or embryos have not been used.

A spokeswoman from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said: "It is about effective informed consent so that the people involved understand the full implications."

UK clinics also put a limit on the number of embryos that can be transferred into a woman's womb at one time - a maximum of two at a time for those under the age of 40 and three for those over 40.

This is to avoid health complications associated with multiple births for both the mother and the babies.

Clinic creates frozen egg twins
01 May 05 |  West Midlands
IVF multiple births 'drain NHS'
23 Jun 05 |  Health

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