Believe it or not, IVF is a fairly modern fertility technology. When researchers first tried to introduce it just over forty years ago, most people were skeptical. Could a baby that had been created in a lab really be “natural”? Nevertheless, all doubts were assuaged on July 25, 1978, when Louise Brown became the first baby to be born as a result of in vitro fertilization.
The First Baby Born By IVF: Then
Both Louise’s conception and birth faced a lot of controversy back in 1978. Her parents, Lesley and John, had been trying to conceive for some time before they found out that there was an issue with fertility, specifically.
Two gynecologists, however, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, were spearheading a new way to help women conceive--called in vitro fertilization. For the first time, women might be able to have their eggs extracted and fertilized outside of their bodies, and then reimplanted after the fact.
Lesley and John, willing to try anything to have the child they always dreamed of having, agreed to be some of the first people to test out IVF. It was a success. Majority of the controversy surrounding her birth actually stemmed from the fact that it was filmed.
Many people believed that the filming and public viewing of such a private moment was distasteful. In an interview she gave with TIME magazine last year, however, Louise pointed out that her parents didn’t really have much say in that matter at the time. If anyone was truly going to believe that IVF was possible, that it could bring a healthy, happy baby into the world, they would need to see it with their own eyes.
The First IVF Baby Today
Today, Louise lives in the UK with her husband and two sons. Despite having been conceived in a test tube, she grew to be a healthy adult. What she finds even more inspiring: she is now the face of hope for many women who are struggling to conceive.
In her interview with TIME from last year, she recounts a time she had been shopping in a supermarket with her husband and kids when she was stopped by a woman. The woman had a child with her who was around the same age as Louise’s own son, as well as a baby in a stroller.
The woman expressed her gratitude for both Louise’s mother and Louise herself. Without the two of them, without Lesley’s perseverance to have a child and without Louise’s existence, she never would have been able to have her two kids.
Louise’s birth paved a way for millions of more women around the world to be able to have children. Since the broadcast of her C-section delivery in ‘78, over 8 million women have successfully undergone IVF, and that number is growing yearly. Louise Brown was the first IVF baby, but there are many more to come.
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