Donated embryos offer alternative for hopeful new parents - WRBL

Donated embryos offer alternative for hopeful new parents

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Amy and David Evans had their child with the help of a donated embryo. Amy and David Evans had their child with the help of a donated embryo.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

Couples hoping to adopt a child often face years of red tape and end up spending a lot of money in the process.

But what doctors are calling the next frontier in the world of adoption, might offer hopeful parents an alternative way to adopt by giving birth to children that are biologically not their own.

Amy and David Evans wanted to have children, but a problem with David's sperm count lead them to seek alternative ways of having a child.

"We were trying for probably about a year, and I decided to go get tested," David explained. "The issues were on my end with my sperm count."

"I wanted a biological child from the beginning because I don't know anybody biologically connected to me. I'm adopted," Amy added. "But then when it wasn't working, it was just more of, ‘I want a child.'"

Both traditional adoption and in vitro were out the question for the couple, as both would have been too expensive. So that's when they tried using donated embryos, a procedure in which doctors take donated embryos and implant them in the woman's uterus.

Embryo adoptions can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000. In vitro or traditional adoptions are at least three times as much.

"The success rates are almost as high as the [in vitro fertilization] success rates," said Dr. Sameh Toma, medical director of the North Carolina Center for Reproductive Medicine.

Toma said not many people know about the procedure, but that's starting to change. He explained that after women successfully give birth after in vitro, they're left with a difficult decision -- what to do with the remainder of their frozen embryos.

"A lot of people have a hard time having their embryos destroyed, and this gives them a good alternative," Toma said.

Gwen Jones Norwood and her husband Chris were in that predicament just a few years ago. After going through in vitro, Gwen gave birth to her first child and decided to give the remainder of her embryos up for adoption rather than destroy them.

"We're both devout Christians and we believe conception is when life begins," Gwen said. "We never wanted to destroy them. … We still feel like they're children.

"That's the way we looked at them -- as our 14 other children. It is a hard concept to wrap your mind around. That you could have 14 other children, that you'll never meet, you'll never know."

Chris added, "As far as we're concerned, there wasn't a choice. But it was still a hard step to make."

Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly, a bioethicist at UNC, says the field of embryo donations is loosely regulated by the FDA. She believes one reason there hasn't been an outcry for more regulation is that the topic could become political.

"When you start regulating things that have to do with human embryos, it gets very political," Lyerly explained. "There are those that believe embryos have full moral status and should not be destroyed."

Gwen now has two healthy girls -- her second child was born naturally -- and in vitro successes like hers are becoming more common. As a result, it's estimated that there are more than 600,000 frozen embryos in the United States alone.

Doctors say that number is only going to grow.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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