After multiple failed pregnancies, Maria Lancaster miscarried again when she was 46. At age 47, however, she finally gave birth to a daughter, though her pregnancy did not come through in vitro fertilization, or egg or sperm donation. Rather, Lancaster is a "snowflake mom," Ozy reports, having adopted an embryo in order to become pregnant and have a child. There were believed to be more than 600,000 frozen embryos being stored in the US in 2011, reports LA Weekly, which terms embryo adoption a "sort of by-product of IVF"—making use of embryos left over after women successfully undergo the procedure. A rep for the nearly 20-year-old Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and Donation program—the first embryo adoption agency to open its doors, per LA Weekly—says at least 1,000 snowflake babies have been born over the years.
Where IVF can cost as much as $20,000 and still have less than a 4% success rate with women over 44, per Ozy, embryo adoption costs about $3,500 and gives a woman in her 40s a 50-50 shot of becoming pregnant. "If you're doing embryo adoption, age doesn't really matter as long as you have a uterus," an OB-GYN tells Ozy. Another doctor tells LA Weekly that her clinic at USC transfers adopted embryos into women up to 53 years old; the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends age 55 be the cutoff. "It is becoming more and more common, but there's a very small minority of people who want to donate their embryos," an attorney tells the Chicago Tribune. Ozy has more on the process—and how much the government has spent promoting it. (These human embryos grew outside the womb for 13 days.)