The World’s First IVF Baby
It’s hard to believe, especially for those who were around when it happened, but the world’s first IVF baby – Britain’s Louise Brown – just turned 41 years-old!
Though most back in 1978 loved to refer to Brown simply as a “test tube baby”, her conception was what many considered a miracle – the first known successful use of in vitro fertilization, which was developed by British scientist Robert Edwards and a gynecologist colleague of his, Patrick Steptoe, along with nurse, Jean Purdy.
The successful birth of Louise – at just short of 6 pounds – ushered in a whole new age of reproductive technology and gave so much hope to others who had been battling infertility.
The Browns had tried to conceive naturally for more than nine years, so they were willing to try anything when Steptoe approached them about the procedure, which had been thus far unsuccessful and had resulted in a few previous failed pregnancies among patients in England.
Mom Lesley had been dealing with blocked fallopian tubes and saw this as her only chance. Her husband, John, agreed to the procedure, despite knowing that it would forever put them and their soon-to-be daughter in the limelight.
Brown’s birth by Caesarean section was filmed by a TV crew for all to see, which the Browns said they had to agree to or else the general public would have thought there was a problem with the birth or the baby. Edwards and Steptoe – along with the parents – wanted to show that IVF was a viable option and could result in a perfectly normal baby.
And though it was slow to catch on, by the time Louise’s sister Natalie was born via IVF four years later, forty children had been born via conception by in vitro fertilization.
Today, an estimated 8 million children have been born using IVF. and in 2010, Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his contributions to the world of infertility treatments and for bettering the lives of so many struggling with the inability to conceive.
Louise Brown is still a celebrity. A normal woman with an otherwise normal life, she maintains a website that provides information about her birth and touts her autobiography.
Though Brown has conceived her children naturally, she remains an advocate for assisted conception and is eager to support those who choose IVF. She works full-time in a shipping department of a local company but makes numerous appearances each year at women’s gatherings and other events where IVF is a topic, her website notes.
Most of all, though she doesn’t consider herself “special” and has said so in numerous interviews, she recognizes that her miraculous birth triggered hope for many and prompted disdain from others. But she and her parents wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Her birth created shockwaves for the church, politicians and the medical profession,” her website notes. “Louise has grown up at the centre (sic) of the debate about the morality of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) while also being a beacon of hope to millions of childless couples throughout the world.”Go back