It is this day in history, July 25, in the year 1978 that medicine was in the forefront of the news and the world. Louise Joy Brown was the very first test tube baby born. She was born in Oldham, Manchester, England by a planned Caesarean or C- Section, as it is more commonly known by today.
For the better part of nine years, Louise Brown’s parents had been trying to conceive a child, but, due to a blockage in her Fallopian tubes, they were unable to conceive naturally. So in November of 1977, Doctors Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe told Louise’s parents of an experimental procedure they were developing called in vitro fertilization, or more simply called IVF. Doctor Edwards began to study human fertilization in 1960 and in 1968 he finally achieved fertilization of a human egg. Doctor Steptoe, a gynecological surgeon, then began to collaborate with Doctor Edwards. He used a relatively new technique called laparoscopy to remove the eggs from Louise Brown’s mother and once they were fertilized, the eggs were placed back inside the ovum to mature.
Of course, the experimental procedure drew criticism from the medical world and from the Vatican. The doctors faced funding problems and lawsuits while developing the procedure. When Louise Joy Brown was born, Cardinal Albino Luciani, who would later become Pope John Paul I, said he had concerns that artificial insemination could cause women to become [i]baby factories[/i]. However, the cardinal did not excommunicate Louise’s parents from the Catholic Church either nor did he condemn them in any way.
Four years later, Natalie Brown was conceived through in vitro fertilization, making her the fortieth baby born from IVF. Natalie is the younger sister of Louise Brown. Louise Brown was married in 2004 and in 2006 gave birth to a son, Cameron. Cameron was conceived the old fashioned way, naturally. However, in 1999, Natalie Brown became the first IVF baby to give birth naturally. A daughter, Casey, was born.
In 2006, Louise Brown’s father died and her mother died in 2012, due to complications from a gallbladder infection. Doctor Patrick Steptoe had died in 1988 so when Doctor Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Steptoe was not recognized as the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.
In vitro fertilization has come a very long way since 1977 and has been an answered prayer to many couples who cannot conceive children naturally.