40 years since the first IVF baby!
Louise Brown was born on November 10, 1977 – 40 years ago. Louise was the first IVF baby. Prof Robert Edwards and Dr Patrick Steptoe pioneered a technique that would go on to give millions of couples the chance to have children.
The process of in vitro fertilisation involves removing an egg from the woman’s ovaries, fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory and then returning the fertilised egg – the embryo – to the womb to develop. More than five million IVF babies have been born around the world in the past 4o years.
Undergoing IVF at the clinic in those early days was no small matter. Eggs had to be harvested by laparoscopy – or keyhole surgery – while the woman was under general anaesthetic. This meant she had to stay as an inpatient on the clinic’s wards, usually for around four or five days. The patients’ urine had to be collected 24 hours a day throughout their stay so the doctors could monitor their hormone levels. There were 30 beds in total, and the clinic was always full, it being the only place in the world then offering the treatment. Staff worked around the clock.
It wasn’t until the late Eighties that it became possible for women to have their eggs harvested under sedation, using ultrasound, and return home the same day.