Adoption has always been the old standby path to parenthood when all else failed. And until fairly recently, "all else" meant natural conception, perhaps helped along by fertility drugs, and even artificial insemination. More currently, in vitro fertilization, where a woman's egg is combined with the sperm in the laboratory, then inserted back into her uterus as an embryo, has enabled many women to become mothers.
But for some, even the miracle of in vitro was not an option, whether their systems physically weren't able to support a baby or their eggs were not viable due to disease or advanced age.
Enter a solution up to 20 years in the making, whereby women are implanted with an adopted embryo that has been in frozen storage - sometimes for up to two decades. It is just this scenario that has made Patrisha Wilson one of the happiest new mothers in the world - and given countless women new hope.
Patrisha's saga began 16 years ago at age 23, when she began thinking about motherhood. By 25 she was wholeheartedly ready. But after years of trying naturally, a series of medical inquiries uncovered endometriosis, a disease in the uterus that can affect fertilization and can also prevent an embryo from implanting. A subsequent back surgery further complicated matters.
"My doctor told me that the back surgery sterilized all my eggs and that I had no chance of conceiving a child," said the heartbroken Wilson. In fact, eight different doctors, and many thousand of dollars later, confirmed the stark fact that she would never become a biological mother.
So she turned to the old standby: adoption. Little did she know that indeed adoption would be her answer - just not the way she thought. "Four hours before I was to receive the baby, the county gave it to the highest bidder," recounted Wilson. "I was devastated. I quit my job. But in the end, the experience pushed me even harder to find a way to have a baby. This is when I found Dr. Lawrence Werlin at Coastal Fertility Medical Center in Irvine, California."
After talking with Patrisha, testing her, and giving her estrogen and progesterone treatments, we discovered that indeed, she was a candidate for implantation of existing embryos that had been frozen for 14 years. Most clinics have a waiting list for these embryos two years long and few clinics in the country even offer this opportunity.
At age 39, Patrisha was implanted with four embryos and soon she was carrying twins. As with any process, there are many variables and challenges. At seven weeks, Patrisha miscarried one of the twins and faced losing the remaining fetus three times. An allergic reaction to the progesterone she was taking also caused severe swelling in her leg, which risked hers and her baby's life. She made it through and gave birth. She successfully gave birth to Nathan at 33 weeks, 6 weeks earlier than expected due to a separate condition, pre-eclampsia.
"I searched for two years to find this option," said Wilson. "The only way I finally found it was when I searched for embryo adoption on the Internet. I discovered a frozen embryo transfer is not an outrageous amount of money. I hope others would have the opportunity to interact with a staff such as Dr. Werlin's."
Truly, there are many options available today for women to achieve motherhood. Some are easier, cheaper, and faster, some more complicated and not available to everyone. Frozen embryo adoption is proving to be a viable and successful method for women who have explored other options without fruition.
Dr. Lawrence B. Werlin is a nationally noted specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, practicing in Orange County, CA since 1982. He is founder and medical director of Coastal Fertility Medical Center with offices in Irvine and Aliso Viejo. Prior to that, he founded and directed the Hoag Memorial Hospital Fertility Services in 1986 and has served as assistant professor in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility at the University of California at Irvine. He is presently an associate professor on the school's clinical faculty. Dr. Werlin can be reached at 949-726-0600, email@example.com or visit www.coastalfertility.com
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