Forty years ago, the thought of conceiving a child outside the womb was not only inconceivable but frowned upon – the debates on ethics and protocol and playing God ran rampant; but when IVF pioneers, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards turned theory into reality in the summer of July 1978, it marked a turning point in history that would forever change the way the world looked at fertility.
The first test tube baby
The term “test tube baby” seems rather a pejorative phrase to use now, especially considering the fact that between 3-6% of babies around the world are conceived via IVF nowadays. But when Louise Joy Brown was born on July 25th, 1978 in Oldham, England, she was not only deemed a scientific miracle, but she was the very first of her kind – a baby born through the technique of in-vitro fertilization.
Brown’s birth may have been awash with controversy but it also shed light on infertility issues and the scientific methods to combat it. When Brown was conceived, Steptoe and Edwards suggested that her middle name be Joy as her birth would bring happiness to many individuals and couples around the world. They weren’t wrong – as of 2010, an estimated 48.5 million couples worldwide suffered from infertility and it’s an increasing and worrying bane of the 21st century. Luckily, the success of Brown’s birth has led to frank conversations about assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and motivations to further advance and evolve these technologies to combat the rising numbers of infertile individuals and couples.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Aside from normalizing babies conceived in a lab, IVF has pushed those in the medical field to think up creative solutions for the reproductive field. One such innovation is Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a type of ART that allows doctors to inject a single sperm into an egg via a fine needle. ICSI combated infertility by allowing any male with a sperm count above zero to fertilize their partner’s egg – all the doctor needed was one viable sperm to inject into the embryo. Prior to the invention of ICSI, males with a low sperm count had limited chances of fertilizing their partner’s egg and sometimes had to resort to using donor sperm.
A second type of ART that has revolutionized the reproductive field is blastocyst culture and transfers, which is the process of leaving a fertilized egg to grow in a Petri dish for about five days so that it divides into around sixty cells. The advantage of this innovation is that is allows the embryologist to observe which cells have grown the best and fastest and then use those for implantation. By allowing the fertilized egg to grow in a lab, it reduces the chances of the potential mother having three or more babies in one go; and by picking the best embryos, it increases the chances of a successful pregnancy.
In conclusion, IVF has paved the way for medical innovations and advancements, particularly in the reproductive field. In a world where family models are changing and women are opting to start families later in life, assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, ICSI and blastocyst culture and transfers have become tools which individuals and couples use to combat infertility.
Article Submitted By Community Writer