The first breakthrough in lab fertilization
In 1944, researchers announced the first US fertilization of human eggs in a laboratory. Though the scientific community saw this as a victory, the report was denounced by the Vatican. Since then, medical research into infertility treatment has advanced rapidly throughout the world.
1. The first IVF baby is born
July 25, 1978 was a tremendous day for infertility treatment and for infertile couples. At Oldham and District Hospital in Greater Manchester, UK, the first IVF baby was born. The birth of Louise Joy Brown changed everything. At the thought that the new science could offer childless couples hope, public opinion took a strong turn in favor of IVF technology. Just two years later, the first IVF clinic was opened in the US.
The next big step in infertility treatment was the development of the technology to freeze sperm, eggs, and embryos. In the early days of cryopreservation, there was a great risk of damaging the eggs and embryos during the thawing process. Sperm was first successfully frozen and thawed in 1954. Almost two decades passed before technology developed enough to use frozen embryos.
The use of frozen embryos was a major step because this process can have an advantage over the use of fresh embryos for some couples. Waiting for a period of time between egg retrieval and embryo transfer can give the woman’s reproductive system a chance to rest. This can increase the chance of a successful live birth.
3. Single embryo transfers
Initially, fertilized eggs were cultured in the lab for three days, and the embryos were then transferred to the woman’s uterus. At this stage in the development of IVF doctors had difficulty assessing which embryos would or would not implant, so often, three or more would be transferred simultaneously. For this reason, IVF became linked in the mind of the public with multiple births.
During the late 1990s, research increased the understanding of developing embryo’s nutritional needs. This meant that fertility specialists could culture them to the blastocyst stage. This stage usually occurs around five days after fertilization. Because the blastocyst embryo is easier to screen for genetic health, this made single embryo transfers possible.
Fine-tuning the fertility process
Infertility treatments have come a long way. Today, many couples struggling with fertility are able to become pregnant through fertility treatments. Couples who wish to find out more about infertility treatment should talk to a fertility specialist to learn more about treatment options.