Today, Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, celebrates her 35th birthday!
Louise’s parents, Leslie and John Brown who were unable to have a child due to Leslie’s lack of functioning fallopian tubes, turned to Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist, and biologist Robert Edwards, who were performing the new In vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure in Great Britain, for help.
Although the technology that made Louise’s birth possible was lauded as a triumph, there were also many skeptics. In an effort to silence the naysayers, the doctors opted for Louise to be born via C-section. According to Dr. John Webster who was present at the delivery “It was the only way to show the world that this woman had no fallopian tubes. Otherwise, there would have been skeptics who might claim that she could have become pregnant naturally, no matter what we said… A lot of people felt we were meddling in nature, and shouldn’t be doing things like this, but the majority of the people coming to us had damaged tubes, and had no chance of conceiving naturally.”
By the time the couple had their second daughter, Natalie Brown, who was also conceived via IVF four years after her sister, 39 other babies had successfully been born via IVF. Today, thanks to this incredible innovation and the bravery of the Brown’s, more than 5 million women have conceived babies through the procedure.
According to the National Infertility Association, infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S, or one in eight couples, but since most insurance companies do not cover the costs associated with the procedure, many families cannot consider it as an option.
Currently, there are two bills in Congress awaiting approval that would offer assistance to couples who cannot afford the price of IVF, which include a possible tax credit for out-of-pocket costs related to the procedure, and a second bill that would require the Veteran’s Administration to provide IVF and adoption assistance to soldiers whose wounds have caused them to become infertile.
Today, Louise is married and has a 6-year old son (who was born naturally), and on her 35th birthday has one wish… to see IVF made more available to those who need fertility support. In an interview with BBC she shares “When I was born they all said it shouldn’t be done and that it was messing with God and nature, but it worked and obviously it was meant to be.” She added, “It is just the beginning of life that’s a little bit different, the rest is just the same.”