How did IVF start as a fertility treatment? Thirty five years ago, British scientists Robert G. Edwards, Ph.D., and Patrick Steptoe, M.D., made a breakthrough, combining their expertise in reproductive research and medicine to help infertile women conceive. They developed a new medical procedure, called in vitro fertilization (IVF), and the first IVF baby Louise Brown was born in the United Kingdom in 1978. The two pioneers were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Only Dr. Edwards was still alive to receive it.
Baby Louise Brown’s mother was infertile due to a blockage in her fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries, where eggs are produced, to the uterus, where the embryo implants and grows.
Eggs released from the ovaries travel through the fallopian tube. Inside the tube, the egg may encounter sperm and become fertilized. A fertilized egg can develop into an embryo which makes its way to the uterus, where it can implant and produce a pregnancy.
Blocked fallopian tubes were the first diagnosis for which IVF was performed, because IVF could bypass blocked fallopian tubes and achieve fertilization in a laboratory setting. Over the last several decades, the IVF procedure has continually improved. Yet, many patients wait too long before seeking IVF, spending their emotional and financial reserves instead on less effective treatments, such as timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination (IUI).