Celebrating World IVF Day – 25 July
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we love to commemorate World IVF Day on 25 July each year – the birthday of the very first baby born through in vitro fertilisation or IVF in the UK in 1978, 45 years ago this year.
Since that momentous day, millions of couples worldwide struggling with infertility have found hope and success thanks to IVF treatment, which has become the standard medical treatment for many couples facing infertility. In this article, we share how IVF has changed the lives of millions of families and why World IVF Day is such a happy celebration.
On July 25, 1978, in the United Kingdom, Louise Joy Brown became the first baby to be born through in vitro fertilisation or IVF treatment, a procedure pioneered in the UK, and still considered one of “the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century”.
The IVF procedure was developed by British medical researcher Robert Edwards and British gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, to help a young woman with damaged fallopian tubes to conceive.
This young woman, Lesley, became Louise’s mom, after her eggs were retrieved and fertilised in a glass test tube before being implanted in her uterus, where one embryo grew into baby Louise. Weighing in at around 2.5 kilograms, Louise was delivered by caesarean section in Oldham General Hospital, shortly before midnight on July 25. At the time, TIME magazine called “the most awaited birth in perhaps 2,000 years”.
The world’s most famous ‘test-tube’ baby
The media dubbed Louise a “test-tube baby” – referring to the fact that her mother’s eggs were fertilised “in vitro”, which is Latin for “in glass”, referring to the glass jar used in the lab. The 40th IVF baby, born in 1982, was Louise’s sister Natalie.
Despite all the media attention over the last four decades, Louise lives a normal life in southwestern England with her husband and two sons, and has a job at a local company. She says that people still come up to her with thankfulness towards her mom, recalling about a recent encounter: “It was a woman, and she had a 4 year-old – the same age as my son – and a tiny baby in a pram. She said that she’d always wanted to thank my mum and me because without us she’d never have had those two. It makes you tear up.”
Pioneers in IVF
Steptoe (1913-88) was a practising consultant obstetrician, trained at St George’s Hospital Medical School, who had been working at Oldham General Hospital since 1951. He became known to Edwards for his pioneering work in laparoscopy, which he developed in his practice in Oldham. Edwards (1925-2013) received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1955 and, after several research positions, in 1963 he went to the University of Cambridge as a Ford Foundation Research Fellow.
Since their pioneering work resulted in Louise’s birth more than 40 years ago, around 6 million babies worldwide have been born through IVF, according to the Science Museum.
In fact, the success rates for IVF treatment are now comparable – and even superior – to those of nature. A share of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine went to Edwards for his work to develop the technique of IVF.
Just five years after Louise Brown’s birth, in 1983, the first IVF treatment was performed in South Africa at Tygerberg Hospital, by Medfem Fertility Clinic’s very own Dr Johan Van Schouwenburg, along with Professor Kruger. Since then, he has remained at the forefront of the development of infertility services in South Africa for over 30 years and personally treated many thousands of patients with infertility problems.
In 1983, Dr van Schouwenburg co-established the In Vitro Fertilisation Unit at Tygerberg Hospital and the University of Stellenbosch, and two years later went on to co-establish the In Vitro Fertilisation Unit at Sandton Clinic. Since 1992, Dr van Schouwenburg has been practicing from the purpose-built Medfem Fertility Clinic.
During the more than 30 years of practice at Medfem Fertility Clinic, Dr van Schouwenburg and the Medfem team have performed an average of 1,100 IVF treatment cycles a year – that’s experience spanning more than 33,000 IVF cycles!
What does an IVF cycle entail?
Described in the very simplest terms, IVF treatment is a process of assisted reproduction therapy (ART) through which the egg and sperm are fertilised outside of the body to form an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus to hopefully implant and become a pregnancy.
A more comprehensive explanation is that the IVF process involves a series of procedures that are completed over five stages to complete a treatment cycle. The whole process from commencement of ovarian stimulation up to the embryo transfer stage usually takes just under three weeks and is very briefly described below.
An IVF treatment cycle usually commences with a course of hormone therapy to stimulate the development of several egg follicles in the ovary. Once mature, these are then punctured with a specialised needle under ultrasound guidance to retrieve the eggs. The eggs are then fertilised in the lab by specialists called embryologists to create several embryos. After three to five days in an incubator, one or two of these embryos are transferred through the vagina to the uterus where, hopefully, implantation occurs and pregnancy begins.
As in natural conception, not every follicle will contain an egg, not every egg will be fertilised, not every egg that is fertilised will go on to form a good-quality embryo and not every embryo implants to become a pregnancy. However, the success rate of IVF now comparable – and even superior – to those of nature.
Nevertheless, it is important to know that for the majority of couples, multiple IVF treatment cycles may be necessary.
IVF treatment at Medfem Fertility Clinic
The IVF process described here may sound complicated and technical, and the journey difficult and long, but at Medfem Fertility Clinic, you are in the hands of consummate professionals who care.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone and it is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey, so you will have a fond memory of feeling empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem Fertility Clinic family.
We implement individualised IVF stimulation protocols which are customised to each patient according to a multitude of factors, including infertility diagnosis, age, weight/height, prior cycle outcome and prior reproductive history.
Our IVF clinic treats over a thousand patients each year with success rates that have consistently remained high and well above the national averages. In fact, our success rates are consistent with the highest reported amongst clinics worldwide. We are proud to have played a role in bringing more than 18,000 babies into the world.
If you would like to find out more about IVF and whether it is the right option for you, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!