IVF Embryo Mix-Up – Maternity Test Confirms Twins Were Switched
Imagine yourself in these shoes: You spend years trying to get pregnant before opting to try In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF). You spend months of your time and emotional energy – not to mention tens of thousands of dollars – on IVF, and you finally conceive. Even more, you find out that you are carrying twins! You carry those twins to term, and give birth to two healthy boys. And after all of the highs and lows of the last few years, you are shocked to make the wrenching discovery that those boys aren’t really, genetically yours.
Or how about if you were the party on the other side of the coin in that situation: you also tried for years to get pregnant, you attempted IVF, but it failed to take hold. You even tried embryo implantations several times and were not successful. And then, years later, you suddenly learn that your embryos were, in fact, successfully implanted and gestated – it’s just that they were put into the womb of another woman!
Both of these unbelievable situations came to life for three couples undergoing IVF treatments through CHA Fertility Clinic based in Los Angeles. They got the shock of a lifetime in the spring of 2019 when DNA testing confirmed that their embryos had been swapped by the clinic, resulting in one New York woman unknowingly carrying the babies of two different California couples to term. All three couples recently sued CHA Fertility Clinic and two of its directors for negligence, medical malpractice, battery, and several other counts in civil court.
How Embryo Mix-ups Happen at Fertility Clinics
The New York couple, referred to as A.P. (the woman) and Y.Z. (the man) in the official court documents, had turned to IVF treatments after years of trying to conceive unsuccessfully. Previous implantations had failed, but after an August 2018 appointment, the couple was happy to learn that not one but two of their embryos had successfully been implanted. Across the country, another couple named Anni and Ashot Manukyan, received the opposite news— neither of their embryos had implanted and they’d have to undergo another round of treatment if they hoped to conceive.
A.P. and Y.Z. were told that two of their female embryos had been implanted and that they could therefore expect two baby girls. When the couple’s sonogram showed that the twins were boys, they told them it was probably an issue with the image and not to worry about it. When A.P. eventually birthed two boys in March 2019 who didn’t appear to reflect their Asian lineage, they knew something was amiss. The parents made the difficult decision to order a DNA test to confirm both the maternity and paternity of their newborns.
Maternity/Paternity DNA Test Used to Identify Parents
In this unique situation, the only way A.P. and Y.Z. could confirm their parentage was by giving the babies a maternity/paternity DNA test, sometimes called a “mat-pat” test. These tests, like the more common paternity test, can confirm a person’s parents with 99.9% accuracy or greater. As A.P. and Y.Z. feared, the results showed that the boys were not related to either parent – or even to each other. Shockingly, the brothers were, in fact, completely unrelated! This did not stop the new parents from wanting to keep custody of the boys, however, who they viewed as their own despite the clinic’s error.
Secretive DNA Testing by IVF Clinic
All three couples appear to have visited CHA Fertility Clinic on the same day in August of 2018 and received an embryo implantation. Two of the three couples did not gestate their embryos – they didn’t get pregnant. They now know that the embryos were from other parents, but because the DNA evidence of the implanted embryos has been lost, the couples will never know whose embryos they received, nor will the parents of those embryos be notified.
Once CHA Fertility Clinic realized their error, they secretly used mat-pat DNA testing to identify the parents of the boys. In fact, the Manukyans had no idea that anything strange had happened until the day after the clinic called them in for what they called a ‘routine test’ that required a cheek swab. The clinic had actually taken the Manukyans’ DNA on the suspicion that they could be the parents of one of the boys. It is not publicly known how the parents of the second baby discovered the clinic’s mix-up, but it was confirmed via another mat-pat test. Both sets of biological parents used the results of their maternity and paternity tests to sue for custody of their children in court, even though the New York couple said they wanted to keep the boys. As a result of the lawsuit, both boys were taken from A.P. and Y.Z. and sent to be raised by their biological parents.
IVF Parents Turn to DNA Testing as Only Option to Confirm Parentage
As disturbing as this story is, this is not the first case of an embryo mix-up at an IVF clinic. Since IVF has become popular, multiple incidents of embryos being created with genetic material from the wrong parents or being implanted in the wrong uterus have emerged over the years. In 2019 alone, two couples sued fertility clinics in Connecticut and Ohio when they realized that their children had been conceived using genetic material from unidentified men instead of the designated father.
What’s the takeaway? Hopeful parents should know that even the most well-respected fertility clinics can make mistakes. If the clinic calls you back in and asks to swab your cheeks, you should be highly suspicious that something is wrong. If you have conceived through IVF treatments, the only way to confirm that the clinic used your embryo and that your child is genetically yours is to take a DNA test. Do it before they secretly try to do it to you.