In Vitro Fertilization: Giving Couples Hope

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, sometimes a part of in vitro fertilization. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, sometimes a part of in vitro fertilization. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1978, Louise Brown, the first child conceived through in vitro fertilization or IVF, was born.

Here are some things you may not have known about what were known as “test-tube babies.”

The first thing to know is that most in vitro pregnancies begin not in a test tube, but in a petri dish.

An egg is extracted from a woman’s ovary and is fertilized by sperm in a petri dish. The fertilized egg grows for several days in the petri dish before it is implanted back in the uterus of the woman who will carry the child.

The main reason for using in vitro fertilization is infertility on the part of either the man or woman. The process allows the fallopian tubes to be bypassed, which is a common cause of female infertility. It also allows for the injection of a single sperm cell into the egg, allowing men who would otherwise be considered infertile to conceive a child. The procedure also makes it possible for a woman to become pregnant after menopause through egg donation. The oldest verified mother was almost 67 years old when she gave birth in 2006. The fertility clinic that conducted the procedure said she lied about her age, telling them she was 55, the clinic’s maximum age for IVF.

The process was first proven viable in a 1959 experiment using rabbits. The first human in vitro pregnancy was in 1973, although it lasted only a few days.

British doctors Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards reported an ectopic pregnancy resulting from IVF in 1976. A ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo attaches somewhere besides the uterus.

In November 1977, Steptoe and Edwards implanted an embryo in Lesley Brown. She and her husband, John, had been trying to conceive for nine years, but had no success due to fallopian tube obstructions.

Eight months later, Louise was delivered via caesarean section. She weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces at birth.

Louise Brown was later joined by a sister Natalie, who was also conceived through IVF. Natalie was the world’s 40th IVF baby. She was also the first IVF baby to give birth herself in May 1999. Her daughter was conceived naturally.

Louise Brown has two children of her own now. Her father died in 2006, and her mother died in 2012.

IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques account for approximately one percent of all births in the United States, as of 2006.

Our question: What does “in vitro” mean?

Today is Constitution Day in Puerto Rico, Republic Day in Tunisia, and Revolution Day in Egypt.

It’s unofficially National Carousel Day, National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, and National Wine and Cheese Day.

It’s the birthday of actress Estelle Getty, who was born in 1923; football player Walter Payton, who was born in 1954; and actor Matt LeBlanc, who turns 49 today.

This week in 1978, the top song in the U.S. was “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb.

The No. 1 movie was “Grease,” while the novel “Chesapeake” by James A. Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

What is the largest number of in vitro fertilized babies to be born following  one pregnancy?


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