Monday, July 25, 2011

The Days of Louise Brown

by Julia Buckley
Many blog readers might recall this significant anniversary: 33 years ago today, Louise Brown became the world's first "test-tube baby." Back then the term alone was enough to send some people into a panic, wondering how a baby could be grown in a test tube. But of course we know it now as in-vitro fertilization, and Louise was the first successful birth, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Robert Edwards and Dr. Patrick Steptoe, who teamed up in the seventies in an effort to successfully achieve the fertilization of an egg in a laboratory.

Louise's parents had tried for nine years to conceive a child; they had a second daughter after Louise who was also conceived through IVF.

When Louise was conceived, there was much debate about the morality of the procedure which had produced her, and fear mongers suggested that this was the beginning of a slippery moral slope which boded ill for the future of mankind.

When Louise was born, however, she was just as adorable as any other baby, and nothing about her looked amiss. Around the world, people who had been told they could not conceive a child were suddenly given new hope. According to an IVF website:

"In June 1980, an Australian team led by Alan Trounson, produced that country’s first (and the world’s third) IVF baby. In the United States, Howard and Georgianna Jones’ IVF program in Norfolk, VA produced this country’s first IVF baby, born December 28, 1981. This also marked the return of injectable fertility drug to help stimulate an IVF pregnancy. Since the introduction of IVF, it is estimated that there have been millions IVF babies born worldwide. IVF babies now make up a measurable percentage of the total births in developed countries. Some of these children, now grown to adulthood, have begun to have their own children, IVF's second generation."

Louise Brown's own son, Cameron, was conceived without any fertility treatments at all; he was born in 2006.

She spoke about him in a BBC interview when she turned 30. You can view the video here:

Elizabeth Jordan Carr was the first American IVF baby; she was born on December 28, 1981. She was the world's fifteenth baby born through in vitro fertilization. Carr also has one son, Trevor James, and he too was conceived naturally.

So which of you remember the days of Louise Brown mania?

(Photo link here).


The English Teacher said...

I do. And even though I was quite young at the time, I was still old enough to wonder why it was such a big "moral" issue. It seemed ridiculous to me to think otherwise.
And lately I've often wondered which of our current "moral" issues will seem ridiculous in a few years. Perhaps people will shake their heads and chuckle over the absurdity that folks under the Bush administration thought stem cell research was somehow "evil."

Sandra Parshall said...

I remember Louise Brown's birth, and it seems like nothing compared to what's happening these days. Unfortunately, it's still very difficult for some women to have children, and they put themselves through torture trying.

One great "advance" that turned out not to be was cloning. Now we know that the clone starts out with "old" cells and won't live a natural lifespan. I'm sort of glad that particularly technology has such a huge drawback.

Julia Buckley said...

Great point--even as a kid I didn't really know why little Louise was causing people such angst. And yes--what will they think of the early 21st century in 50, 100 years?

Sandra, a good point about cloning. But I remember Dolly the sheep and her attendant controversies.

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