What is the history of IVF?

 What is the history of IVF? 

IVF short for in vitro fertilisation is the process in which an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, before being implanted into the uterus. Couples who have fertility problems to conceive a child or same sex couple or single mothers can have children using this treatment. The first birth in a mammal resulting from IVF occurred in 1959 and in 1978 the world's first baby conceived by IVF was born. As medicine advanced, IVF was transformed from natural research to an imitated clinical treatment. There have been many improvements in the IVF process, and today millions of births have occurred with the help of IVF all over the world. According to some estimates more than five million people worldwide have been born using this technique.

What were the steps prior to human IVF? 

Before the development of IVF in humans, Walter Heape, a physician and professor at the University of Cambridge, was doing research on reproduction in animals and reported the first successful embryo transfer in a mammal in 1891.

Gregory Goodwin Pincus and Ernst Vincenz Enzmann tried to perform IVF on rabbits in early 1934. Although the pregnancy was successful, it was later found that the fertilization occurred in the body.

John Rock extracted an intact fertilized egg in 1948. Rock and Miriam Menkin published their findings in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.There was an impermanent  biochemical pregnancy reported by Australian Foxton School researchers in 1953.

In 1958, Anne Mclaren and John Biggers published a landmark paper in the journal Nature, describing how they had successfully grown mouse embryos in vitro and transferred them into female mice. Thus it was discovered that it is possible to mix a sperm and an egg outside a woman's reproductive system and create a healthy embryo.

Min Chueh Chang proved fertilization in vitro was capable of proceeding to the birth of a live rabbit at the Worcester Foundation in 1959.

When was the first human IVF performed and how did it go?

It was 25 July 1978 in Oldham General Hospital, Greater Manchester, UK, when Louise Brown became the world's first test tube baby born through fertility treatment IVF. Dr Mike Macnamee, chief executive at the world's first IVF clinic- Bourn Hall in Cambridge called her a miracle. She was the first to be born through IVF. Gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Robert Edwards were the two men who pioneered the treatment and went through hundreds of embryo transfers before Louise was conceived. This pair joined forces and worked for ten years together with skills that complemented each other. Edwards developed a way to fertilize human eggs within the laboratory and Steptoe devised a method for obtaining the eggs from the ovaries. Louise's birth was one in a million chance according to her mother's doctor. So when it successfully worked out, it was a moment of joy and scientific advancement. The birth was filmed with an agreement with the government to provide documented evidence that Louise was born by her mother. Louise had to undergo around 60 different tests to ensure she was normal. 

Who were some of the early IVF babies?

Louise Brown born on 25 July, 1978 was the world's first baby to be conceived by IVF. Alastair Montgomery, born on 14 January 1979 in Glasgow, was the world's first confirmed boy conceived by IVF. A team led by Ian Johnston and Alex Lopata were behind Australia's first baby conceived by IVF, Candice Reed, born on 23 June 1980 in Melbourne.

What are the advancements in the IVF technique?

Once Steptoe and Edwards worked out how to fertilise the egg, they wanted to restrict the number of embryos they transferred into women - so they didn't have too many multiple births. 

Freezing technique developed in the mid-80s meant that one or two embryos can be implanted into the would-be mother and other embryos can be freezed for future use, saving her from the uncomfortable procedure of having the eggs removed again.

There is progress in the modern use of ultrasound imaging to harvest the eggs under a mild sedation, rather than the form of keyhole surgery known as laparoscopy that was previously done.

Techniques developed in the late 1980s made a big difference in treating male infertility by injecting single sperm directly into the egg. All these small steps increased the success rate of IVF from 10% to 40%.


IVF or in vitro fertilization is a process in which an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, before being implanted into the uterus. The first IVF was carried out on mammals and discovered that a sperm and egg can be mixed outside a woman's womb. Although the chances of successfully conceiving through IVF declines with age, the process is now more effective per cycle than natural reproduction. IVF babies can give birth naturally and they are the same as any other baby born by normal reproduction. This process can be used by any woman and it is safe.




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