Evansville baby celebrates 1st birthday 11 years after being conceived
Embryo adoption is growing in popularity
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Thirty people gathered in the home of Milan and Sarah Batinich to celebrate their son’s first birthday. It’s a birthday celebration the two parents dreamed about but feared would not be their reality after nearly 20 years of struggling with infertility.
“It was a little heart breaking, I mean yeah... yeah...” explains Sarah, as she drifts off in thought.
Milan adds, “We started right from the beginning trying to have kids... couldn’t get pregnant, couldn’t get pregnant and then we found out [we couldn’t have kids naturally] in 2013, so about 10 years in. In 2015 we found that I couldn’t have children naturally or even through IVF (in vitro fertilization), but Sarah could, and then Sarah made the decision that if it couldn’t be a part of both of us, she didn’t want it to be a part of neither of us.”
With both natural birth and in vitro fertilization deemed impossible, their next option was adoption. But then they learned of a different take on the idea.
“My old boss, her son and daughter-in-law were going through IVF,” recalls Milan, “And on their documents it said, ‘If you’re done building your family, and you have leftover embryos, what do you want done with them?’”
“So these extra embryos, the fate of which patients struggled with, what could we do with those? Your choices are to come back and use them, which we prefer, to donate them for medical research and destroy them, just destroy them outright or to donate to another couple,” details Dr. John David Gordon, Medical Director of Southeastern Fertility and National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) physician.
Conservative estimates show there are more than one million frozen embryos in storage right now in the United States, though most are expected to be used by the parents who created them for IVF.
The NEDC (embryodonation.org) was created 20 years ago, in 2003, to pair those leftover embryos from clinics across the country with families looking to adopt. Dr. Gordon calls it a rescue mission.
“They really wanted to make sure that this did not become sort of embryo free-for-all right, where embryos are sort of bought, sold and traded on the internet,” explains Gordon, “We receive embryos from basically all the clinics in the country willing to ship to us, and then the couples themselves come from all over the country.”
Dr. Gordon explains that many of the local clinics only work with couples who are current patients of those clinics, and don’t usually accept outside couples who are coming in.
The NEDC has certain criteria you must meet, including being married, passing a background check and doing a home study.
The next step is to make sure the patient’s body can carry a baby. Once you are medically evaluated and deemed a good candidate for embryo adoption, you travel to the NEDC to do three tests: a trial transfer to make sure the doctors can pass the embryo through the cervix, an ultrasound to make sure the uterine lining has thickened on the hormones they’ve provided to you, and a water ultrasound to make sure there are no polyps or fibroids in the uterus.
If all three tests go well and there are no medical issues that need to be addressed, the patient is considered medically cleared.
“From the point of being medically cleared to the day of embryo transfer is usually somewhere between three and nine months,” explains Dr. Gordon.
The next step is the matching process. The NEDC allows for 6, single embryo transfers or three transfers of two embryos each.
“If they’re of high quality, the goal is one or two high quality embryos. And this is an important distinction that we try to explain to patients,” says Gordon, “That even if the embryo does not get a good grade, doesn’t mean it’s not going to turn into a beautiful baby, and the only embryo that can’t turn into a baby is the one you don’t transfer.”
Dr. Gordon estimates doctors perform 300,000 IVF procedures in the country each year. Of those, around 3,000 or 1% use donated, adopted embryos. It’s a small subset, but NIH data show embryo donation is growing in popularity. From 2004-2019 the number of donated embryo transfers each year in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, from 666 to nearly 2500 in 2019. The NEDC is currently storing 3,000 frozen embryos that are available to adopt right now.
“We want the embryos to be placed wherever they are, but they are here and they are waiting. And we certainly have a system that seems to work as we are now approaching 1500 babies, which is more than any other clinic in the world in terms of embryo donation,” adds Gordon.
“They said the ring around it was more viable, so I don’t know, maybe this was him,” says Sarah as she points to a photograph of three embryos.
“So 2-22 of 20-22 at 2:22 in the afternoon eastern,” recalls Milan fondly as Sarah chimes in, “That’s no joke!” He continues chuckling as he holds up his son, “They transferred three embryos into Sarah, and here’s one of them!”
The couple laughs together again, something that didn’t always come easily during their almost 20 year journey with infertility.
“When he was born, she’s [the nurse is] like, ‘Alright Dad, take a look at your son!’ and when I stood up and saw him, it was unbelievable! I couldn’t believe it was real,” explains Milan. Sarah adds, “We just love, love him. We soak him up. It’s so amazing.”
To learn more about embryo adoption through the NEDC: https://www.embryodonation.org/
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