Louise Brown is Britain’s first test tube baby and is celebrating her 40th birthday today.
So it is the 40th anniversary of the birth of the first baby conceived using(In vitro Fertilization) IVF.
There were about eight million babies worldwide have since been born through IVF since Louise’s birth.
Louise’s mother, Lesley Brown, had been unable to conceive naturally because her Fallopian tubes were blocked and had been trying for a baby for nine years when she signed up for IVF. She was among 282 women who tried the experimental procedure, with doctors attempting 457 egg collections but only 167 cycles resulting in fertilisation. From 12 embryos successfully implanted into women, five became pregnant, and Louise was the one live birth.
Louise’s sister, Natalie, was the 40th IVF baby and the first to have a child of her own.
The Story Began On 1978
As lab technician Jean Purdy watched the single-cell embryo in the petri dish in front of her divide into eight cells, she could, presumably, never have imagined exactly what that moment would herald.
For not only would it lead to the birth of Louise Brown nine months later — the world’s first ‘test tube baby’ — after that particular developing embryo was successfully implanted into Louise’s mother, but ultimately it would mean the birth of more than six million people, who might not have existed otherwise.
Purdy is now considered to be the world’s first embryologist — and one of a team of three British scientists, along with scientist Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, a gynaecologist at Oldham General Hospital, whose dogged determination ushered in the age of IVF.
It would take Purdy, Edwards and Steptoe ten years of painstaking research, 457 attempted egg retrievals, 331 attempted fertilisations and around 221 embryos to prove that it was possible — and in the face of enormous misgivings and accusations that they were creating ‘Frankenbabies’.
Even after Louise’s birth, and the team opened the doors to their first private clinic, in Bourn, near Cambridge, the technique was still viewed with deep suspicion.
But forty years on the technology has moved on significantly.
As Professor Simon Fishel, a leading fertility doctor who was part of the original IVF research team in Cambridge and founder of CARE fertility clinics, explains: ‘In the early days, removing eggs involved a ten-day stay in the clinic because we were measuring a woman’s natural ovulation cycle with eight urine tests a day, whereas now we use drugs to control the cycle.