The world’s first birth after in vitro fertilization (IVF) turned 38 years old this past Monday– Louise Brown was born at Oldham General Hospital in England on July, 25 1978. Making it a family affair, her sister Natalie Brown was born four years later and was the world’s fortieth IVF baby. These “medical miracles” were made possible by scientific breakthroughs which would result in a Nobel Prize and over 5 million babies world-wide.
The early years of IVF presented to great challenges. Success rates were exceedingly low which caused doctors and patients to try and “beat the odds” by placing back many embryos. At times, this resulted in multiple births which bring challenges such as pregnancy loss, premature birth, and long stays in the newborn intensive care unit – not the types of things that are the goal of fertility care.
We have come a great distance since those early days. There have been great advances in embryology laboratory science and genetic testing which allows for high success rates – orders of magnitude higher than those seen in Louise Brown’s era – all while being able to put one embryo back. This allows for us to enjoy seeing the ultimate goal come to pass: the birth of a healthy, single child. Happy Birthday Louise!