History of IVF

Invitro fertilization (IVF) is a common option for the modern couple who needs help conceiving, but it's a fairly new process that's only been around since the late 1970s. The first child conceived from invitro fertilization was born in 1978. Her name was Louise Brown. Another unnamed child was born shortly after and in 1980 Australian Candice Reed was born in Melbourne.

These are the successful pregnancies that went on the produce healthy babies. Earlier, in 1973, there was a report of the successful fertilization of a human egg but it only lasted a few days. Today it would be considered a biochemical pregnancy. In 1976 an IVF attempt ended in a tubal ectopic pregnancy.

More Advancements and More Babies

At this point IVF was still in the research stage. Additional research yielded the idea to stimulate a woman's cycles with clomiphene citrate and use human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to control when the eggs mature to help control the time of egg collection. These breakthroughs changed IVF into an actual clinical treatment. There were 14 pregnancies using these new methods studied by the Monash University Team and nine babies were born in 1981. More work by another team of medical researchers discovered that a woman's cycles could be further stimulated by using a follicle stimulating hormone (uHMG) that is now known as ovarian hyperstimulation (COH).

The use of gonadotrophin was discovered as a way of preventing premature ovulation because it releases hormone agonists (GnRHA). Less monitoring is now required and many doctors use oral contraceptive pills to more effectively schedule IVF treatments.

Freezing Embryos Discovered

The next milestone in IVF was the ability to freeze embryos and later thaw and transfer them. In 1992 the ability to inject single sperms into an egg was developed by Andre van Steirtegham in Brussels. This was a big breakthrough in IVF treatment because it now made it easier for men with low sperm production to conceive a baby. The sperm is collected by an open testicular biopsy or by using a fine testicular needle. Even men with Kleinfelter's syndrome, a sex chromosome disorder in men that causes decreased testicular hormone production resulting in male infertility, have been able to get their partner pregnant with this method.

More Success Rates

By the 1990s the pregnancy rate per embryo transfer was 15 percent. Now it's typically 35 percent. This higher success rate has caused many doctors to reduce the number of embryos transferred to cut down on the chances of birthing multiples. The Fertility Society of Australia recommends only up to two embryos be transferred. Some clinics are leaning towards transferring only one embryo especially in women over 40.

The Next Step

IVF researchers are currently analyzing the endometrium (uterus lining) to determine its receptiveness to carrying an embryo to a full-term baby. If any treatment can be done to improve the quality of the endometrium, researchers speculate the successful pregnancy rates from IVF could go to well above 50 percent.


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