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July 18th, 2012
06:09 PM ET

Three birthdays, one day of conception

For Joyce Mallon, the births of her three children are "a miracle." Conceived on October, 26, 2007, in a lab by in vitro fertilization, the embryos were implanted into her uterus at two-year intervals, giving her and her husband three children conceived on the same day but born years apart.

"They are my Tripblings!! Triplets via conception, siblings by actual birth," she wrote in an e-mail sent to CNN.  "I believe our story to be an exciting and intriguing one, that NO ONE in the U.S. (to my knowledge), has any claim to."

Fertility experts say while the Mallon births are exciting, they're not a first. With better freezing techniques, many babies have been born by doing what the Mallons did: creating a group of embryos, using some to start one pregnancy, and then freezing the rest for future pregnancies.  Three babies born this way aren't triplets, but rather three genetically unique siblings conceived on the same day and born years apart.

"I can think off the top of my head of several couples who've done this,'" said Dr. Daniel Shapiro, medical director of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta. "This isn't new."

Shapiro added that it is, however, exciting.  He says more and more couples are using frozen embryos. Using embryos from the freezer is less expensive than harvesting a woman's eggs anew each time a couple wants another baby, and it's also less invasive for the mother, since harvesting eggs from a woman's ovaries requires a medical procedure and sedation or anesthesia.

In 2007, after the Mallons discovered they were unable to conceive a child on their own, they went to the Advanced Reproductive Care Center in Irving, Texas, which helped them create eight viable embryos.  When the embryos were five days old, doctors implanted two of them into Joyce Mallon's uterus and froze the rest.  About nine months later, Julianna Grace was born.

The Mallons then had six frozen embryos left.  Less than a year after Juliana's birth, doctors implanted two of them, but Mallon miscarried.

Less than two months later, doctors implanted two of the remaining four frozen embryos. This time it worked, and AnnaSophia Grace was born May 28, 2010.

A year and a half later, doctors thawed and implanted the final two embryos, resulting in baby Andrew Gracin last month.

The Mallons gave the three babies similar names since they were conceived at the same time, each with an “Ann” sound.

"Becoming a mother, is the most important thing I will ever do in my lifetime, and I am PROUD of the way in which my Tripblings were conceived," Mallon wrote.

Shapiro estimates that about 25% of babies are conceived through frozen embryos, and the rest through fresh.

Dr. Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center, said it is unusual to have enough viable frozen embryos to have three babies, but it's still not unheard of.

"There are plenty of babies born this way," he said.

Mallon said she considers the frozen embryos to be human beings, and mourns the loss of the five embryos that did not result in a baby.

"I grieve for them every single day," she told CNN.

When Andrew was born, she said she cried for two hours, relieved that the siblings created at the same time had been reunited.

"All I could say was, 'We waited so long for you,' " she said. "We were back together as a family."

CNN Medical Producers Caitlin Hagan and Miriam Falco contributed to this report.


soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. t3chsupport

    For all of the hoopla from people who go on about how gay people raising kids is unnatural and creepy, or how abortion is 'playing god', I just can't see how this is any less of either.

    July 18, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • getoffyourhighhorse

      Then it must be playing god to treat other medical conditions, too. Got cancer? Too bad ... it would be "playing god" to treat it.

      Ever hear that old sermon joke about God sending two boats and a helicopter? Medicine has figured out a way to help couples conceive. For them, and for their children, this is the helicopter.

      July 18, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • JPC

      "God' didn't intend for these couples to have children. The children they will have will be genetically dispositioned to be infertile like their parents. Not to mention the unused embryos that will be destroyed. I don't see how anyone of the pro-likfers can support this.

      July 18, 2012 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • JW

      JPC – How do you know what God intended? Do you really think He didn't know this would happen? Or that He would allow it to work if He didn't want it to succeed? Also, not all causes of infertility are genetic and therefore cannot be passed down.

      July 18, 2012 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
    • jsmith

      JPC – God forbid your children ever have such a problem. You clearly cannot imagine the pain and agony such women, including myself, go through to have children via IVF. Just try to picture how painful the procedure is - and how painful it is to watch other women get pregnant easily and then give up their kids, abuse them, and so forth. At least people who take the incredible effort and expense of IVF really want children and do their best to become the best parents ever. Wouldn't it be a better world if everyone cared so much about their children, no matter how they were conceived?

      July 18, 2012 at 20:51 | Report abuse |
    • JA

      JPC- this story clearly states that 8 embryos were created and 8 were inserted into this womans uterus 2 at a time 4 times, resulting in a miscarriage and 3 live births. Meaning no embryos were 'destroyed' here.

      July 18, 2012 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
    • finnboo

      This is for jsmith - as someone who endured long painful years of infertility and uncountable "interventions" only to end up still childless, I want to make sure that you understand that people like us would never be parents if some loving mother didn't decide to "give her child away." As a society we have to STOP talking about adoption in such negative terms. Placing a child with another couple to raise is a heartrending decision for birth mothers–even when they know it is the best thing for their child.

      My son's birth mother did not "give him away"! She selected another couple who wanted to be parents and she is entrusting us with her most precious gift–a give we treasure every single day and with the recognition that the only "compensation" we can offer is to raise her child well into a good, productive, spiritual, happy man.

      So, please, people, let's start using words that are affirming to adoptees and which clearly acknowledge the emotional implications of a difficult (for the birthmother) and joyous (for the adoptive parents) decision.

      September 20, 2012 at 01:35 | Report abuse |
  2. terry

    Adoptions would have been nice too.

    July 18, 2012 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christy

      How many children have you adopted, Terry?

      July 18, 2012 at 19:41 | Report abuse |
  3. Hello world!

    So they got a hold of this "unbelievable" story, and despite every expert they interviewed basically saying "So what?", they ran with the story anyway?

    July 18, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kansas1946

      Slow news day. :o)

      July 18, 2012 at 19:21 | Report abuse |
  4. Triplet mom

    At least CNN isn't calling them triplets like other news media. If she had true triplets she wouldn't have time emailing news/media stations to tell her story. I wish nothing but good for this family and their new addition.

    July 18, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Christa

    I honestly have no idea how this woman is special. That's the whole point of IVF, freezing embryos for later use! No respectable doctor would put 8 embryos back in a fresh cycle so of course you would freeze them! I did this multiple times, though never resulting in a live birth. This is common practice nowadays. Additionally, I would like to point out that in IVF cycles the embryos are not "implanted" in your uterus, they are instead transferred and you spend 10 days hoping against hope that the little guys implant naturally, resulting in a pregnancy. While the medical field has come light years in terms of reproductive medicine, they have not yet discovered how to physically "implant" an embryo.

    July 18, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Vicki

    This is nothing new at all. My sister had the same procedure in Dayton, Ohio back in the 1990's and had 1 child and then 2 years later had twins, all from the same batch of embryos. She was one of the first people around here to have it done at Miami Valley Hospital. Can't remember the doctor's name, but it was on our local Dayton news back then. Of course, when sis had it done, there was no online publicity, because the internet was too new then. So, to the mother of these triplets, sorry to burst your bubble. It has already been tried, tested, and proven years ago.

    July 18, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Gail Vallee

    I congradulate the lady with her three children. I want to say that this can happen naturally too. I have three children, who are now 53, 52 and 51. The first child was born on March 20, 1959; the second on March 20, 1960, and the third on March 18, 1962. This means, I think, that they were conceived approximately on the same date in June, 1958, 1959, and 1961. These were all naturally conceived. Quite something.

    July 18, 2012 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hello world!

      Is your anniversary right around 9 months before that? lol

      July 18, 2012 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
    • Shaking my head

      That is quite a coincidence, Gail! March must have been a busy (and expensive!) month in your house with all the birthdays. Good for you for handling 3 young ones so close together, too.

      July 19, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse |
  8. Sheri

    They can't be triplets bc the medical definition is that the siblings have to share the same uterus at the same time. Poor medical correspondence on this story. Recently, a lady who had uterine didelphysis (two uteri) conceived in each uterus. They were born on the same day but not classified as twins bc they didn't share the same uterus. I think she got poor medical advice. I still wish her the best.

    July 18, 2012 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Hawke

    Wonderful. There are 7 billion people on earth. Many of them are starving and homeless. And now yippee we've found a way to have one woman have three babies with the lab's help. Why is this a good thing?

    July 18, 2012 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Triplet mom

      I wouldn't call it a 'new" procedure – it's called IVF and it's been happening for the past 34 years! Sometimes it's the only way couples can have babies. I hope you don't have trouble when it's time for you/your wife to have babies!

      July 18, 2012 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
  10. uuhhhh really?

    Mallon said she considers the frozen embryos to be human beings, and mourns the loss of the five embryos that did not result in a baby. "I grieve for them every single day"

    Are you serioussss...what a joke? I don't care what you say, (1) that is ridiculous, (2) no you don't!

    July 18, 2012 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • uuhhhh really?

      "They DID NOT RESULT IN A BABY" = NO BABY

      get a clue...

      July 18, 2012 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    No offense, but, there are more pressing issues that have not been in the news at all. Let's prioritize, hm cnn?

    July 18, 2012 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. s

    I have a friend who has four children, 2 singles, one set of twins, all from one IVF

    July 18, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Elizabeth

    For everyone who thinks adoption is the answer to infertility...In an ideal world it would be, but the cost of buying a baby (yes buying a baby because that is what you are doing) is astronomical. It is cheaper for women like myself to turn to medical science in order to conceive. I would love to be able to adopt a child because to me relation is not important but I can go through fertility treatments and spend half of what I would if I chose to adopt. Children shouldn't have to be bought, but I don't see it changing anytime soon!

    July 19, 2012 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Shaking my head

    "They are my Tripblings!! Triplets via conception, siblings by actual birth," she wrote in an e-mail sent to CNN. "I believe our story to be an exciting and intriguing one, that NO ONE in the U.S. (to my knowledge), has any claim to."

    Tripblings? Yes, it's wonderful that this lady was able to have 3 children through IVF, but they are not triplets, or tripblings (not even a word!), or anything other than ordinary siblings. Not exciting, not intriguing.

    Also, she's writing to CNN about this rare and spectacular event, clearly wanting attention. Next she's going to be calling news outlets claiming her kid is trapped in a large balloon floating away in the sky....I'll never understand why people seek out attention like this. Maybe she's shopping around for a reality show. Should have written TLC instead.

    July 19, 2012 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Julian Escobar, MD

    We are thrilled to have been part of their journey. What a beautiful family!

    ivfmd.net

    July 19, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kraits in

    Sorry, but you're not the first. Never thought it was any big deal until I read this article, but my 6, 4 and 2 yo children were all conceived via iivf on the same day. I'm sure there are many others with the same experience

    July 20, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. jillmarie

    People can naysay all they want- I hope that Joyce reads my comment- Congrats!!!! This story bought tears to my eyes. I loved when she said they were all reuinited as a family. I loved her word triplings, too- very cute 🙂 I'm a new mom myself so I love to hear positive stories like this.
    Ignore the haters, Joyce- remember the compliments from people like me.
    I also love all their names too- and the "Ann" theme linking them!

    July 24, 2012 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.