Medicine and Disease

Test-Tube Baby

When was the first test-tube baby born?

The process of in-vitro (artificial) fertilization (IVF), in which doctors retrieve an egg from the mother and mix it with the father’s sperm in a petri dish or test tube to achieve fertilization, made possible the birth of Louise Brown on July 25, 1978, in Bristol, England. She became the world’s first “test-tube baby.” The scientific and medical advance of IVF gave parents who were otherwise unable to conceive, another chance at procreation. The procedure has since resulted in numerous successful births: Ten years after Louise Brown was born, an infertile couple had a one-in-ten chance to procreate using IVF technology; and 20 years later the chances had increased to one in five. But as Louise Brown and her parents celebrated her twentieth birthday in 1998, news stories abounded discussing the ethics of in-vitro fertilization. With scientists now able to clone sheep and mice, public opinion often veered toward fear. Would scientists soon be able to clone humans? While technological advances continue to be made, government leaders around the world grapple with how to regulate the use of new “life-giving” technologies such as IVF.


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