Vietnamese mother delivers IVF twins thanks to late husband's sperm

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Hoang Thi Kim Dung holds her twin boys, conceived with her dead husband's sperm and born early in December. She sits with her eldest daughter at  their home in Hanoi. Photo by Thuy Anh

In what doctors called a rare story of love and science, a woman in Hanoi has given birth to twin boys with sperm from her husband who died four years ago.

Le Vuong Van Ve, director of the Hanoi Adrology and Infertility Hospital, said Saturday that the babies of 2.4 and 2.9 kilograms born three weeks earlier were the first such case in Vietnam, an "extremely rare" success of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Ve said the hospital had preserved one testicle of the late father Ho Sy Ngoc since he died in 2010 upon the request of his wife Hoang Thi Kim Dung.

The doctor took the testicle himself, around five to six hours after Ngoc died in a traffic accident.

Dung said she decided to have the IVF as a son was the wish of her husband, who always supported her in their seven-year relationship.

They met as gifted students at Hanoi Technology University.

But they were only together for six months during their marriage, as she went to France for advanced studies immediately following graduation.

She came back in 2009 and they married and she soon got pregnant.

Their first daughter was less than six months old when Ngoc died before his 30th birthday.

Dung said her husband once set a plan with her that they would give their daughter a brother.

"I've seen many couples breaking up after sometime in a long-distance distant relationship, but not us. He was always there taking care of me, supporting me," she said.

Ngoc also received an invitation for postgraduate studies in Austria but he decided to work to support Dung and would study after she finished.

"But he died so young," said Dung.

Ngoc's father Ho Binh said Dung made all the decisions, although some members in his family had told her that they did not want her to devote all the rest of her life to the marriage, given that she was still young.

Binh said no one knew about Ngoc's testicle being preserved until Dung told them later.

Ngoc's sister said that if there's the modern version of the Heroic Mother -- a title given to mother's who helped the Vietnamese Revolution -- she would nominate Dung.

"She lived with my brother for less than six months. She has put her youth, herself behind to keep the promise to her husband."

Dr. Ve said he has witnessed many IVF babies born to the great joy of their families, but Dung's was the most memorable story for her determination to take the journey alone. 

"Many women have made the decision [to preserve their dead husbands' sperm], but they all went back from it. That's life and nothing's wrong with it.

"So this is a strange situation when the husband had died for four years and the wife is only 32 years old," Ve told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

He said many couples with husbands suffering from deadly diseases have been inspired by the case and have asked the hospital to give the same help, but any success can't be guaranteed as results will vary depending on individual cases.

Controversy

IVF birth using a dead husband's sperm is not allowed in countries like Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland due to ethical and moral issues, to save the children from the dilemma of knowing that their father had no idea about them.

Countries allowing the birth method include the US and the UK, but they impose strict regulations on the preservation of dead men's sperm.

Dr. Ho Manh Tuong from the Ho Chi Minh City Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Association said Vietnam is yet to have regulations for the situation, but its organ transplant and donation laws state that a body organ can only be removed from one's body with their consent.

Lawyers said Dung could put her husband's name as the father on her babies' birth certificates.

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