March 2, 2024

California baby 13 years in the making

Laina Beasley and her mother Debbie -- San Francisco Chronicle

A California woman has given birth to her third triplet 13 years after the first two were born. It is the longest time that a IVF embryo has been frozen and still resulted in a healthy baby.

The story of Laina Beasley is more than an IVF record. It is a classic example of the myriad complications of assisted reproductive technology. Debbie and Kent Beasley met in the late 80s. They each had children from previous marriages, but together they were unable to conceive. They resorted to IVF at the University of California at Irvine and twins were born. Some embryos were left frozen in the clinic.

In 1995 the Beasleys learned that their fertility doctor, Ricardo Asch, was a crook. He had been taking eggs from women without their consent and creating embryos which he would implant in other women or send to laboratories for research. (The Orange County Register won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the scandal.) The Beasleys were able to retrieve only eight of their 12 embryos. This caused them immense grief, because as devout Christians they regarded each as a human life.

In 1996, Debbie tried to become pregnant again with these embryos. This time she had a severe allergic reaction to the fertility drug Lupron and it took her seven years to recover. Then she tried again to conceive. Her doctor this time was Dr Steven Katz, who has since become the centre of another IVF scandal. Earlier this year Katz was disbarred for having implanted an embryo into the wrong woman and waiting a year to inform his patients about the mix-up. But the Beasleys still think of him as “an amazing, compassionate man”. With his help, Laina was born.

Not everyone in the family thought that the new arrival was a good idea. Kent has two children and six grandchildren by a previous marriage and was worried about coping. Debbie’s daughter from her first marriage ran away from home for a week when she heard that her mother was pregnant again.