In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) made international headlines in July 1978 with the birth of the first IVF (or, commonly referred to as “test-tube”) baby, Louise Joy Brown of Bristol, England. She was the first baby to be conceived outside the womb. The process, in the development stages for some time, gave hope to scores of infertile couples Louise’s sister, Natalie, was born in 1982 via the same procedure.
The British doctors who brought Louise into the world, gynecologist Dr. Patrick Steptoe and embryologist Dr. Robert Edwards, refined the In Vitro process from previous experiments so that it could be performed on humans. The process of IVF involves the woman’s intake of prescribed hormones to prepare her body for the procedure and for the best chance of retrieving viable eggs. Then, after blood and ultrasound tests to monitor her egg growth, among other factors, deem the time right, the eggs are removed from the woman’s ovaries in a short procedure where she is put under anesthesia. The man’s sperm and woman’s eggs are then fertilized in a lab dish and, after a specified amount of time (generally three to five days), the fertilized egg/eggs are transferred back into the woman, in the hope of a successful pregnancy.
Since Louise’s birth, more than 3 million babies have been born via IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
Louise is now 28, married to Wesley Mullinder, and pregnant herself (she is due the beginning of January). She gave NYMetro Parents this exclusive interview.
It seems that everything has come full circle now that you are pregnant. Did you conceive naturally or use IVF?
I was fortunate to have conceived naturally.
How has the attention affected you, the first child born via IVF?
I am just me, I guess! I don’t like all the fuss — but that is just the part I must pay for my gift of life.
Do you have any advice to give parents who want to go through the IVF process or have gone through it a number of times? What are your thoughts on IVF?
I really don’t know much about IVF, but I know that it has helped many couples. It’s all thanks to Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. I would like to add that you need to have faith and believe the treatment will work — and never give up.
Have you thought of how you will tell your child that you have a place in history?
I guess I could do what my mum and dad did with me — show the video of my birth, and then go from there.
Have you kept in touch with the doctors who were instrumental in your birth?
Patrick Steptoe unfortunately died when I was 10 years old. We do keep in touch with Robert Edwards, who was a guest at my wedding.
What is a typical day like for you? Do you still get much press in the U.K., and worldwide?
I work full-time, as an administrative assistant in a Bristol shipping company. I also work as a checkout operator on Sundays at Asda/Wal Mart — so I don’t get much time to myself. As for the press, they really don’t bother me much unless something happens in my life that is significant, for example the birth of my baby. Sometimes, they just want to know my opinions on subjects to do with IVF.
How did you and Wes meet?
We met back in March 2002 at a nightclub in Bristol’s City Centre. He was working as a doorman, and I was out with friends celebrating a birthday. They knew Wes, and he and I got talking and hit it off straightaway. It just went from there. We got engaged in May 2003, and married September 2004. So, we have just celebrated our second wedding anniversary.
Finally, do you hope for a boy or girl, or just that he/she is healthy?
Both of us have said that we would like a little girl, but as long as the baby is healthy, I don’t think we really mind.