“The field of medicine has continuously evolved since the 14th century. The practice of IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, has been around for some time, but in a different form and with rather rudimentary means. You’ll learn when the first experiments took place and how it happened, as this method was developed many years ago.”
IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, is defined as a medical aid to reproduction that involves fertilizing an egg or oocyte with a sperm in a laboratory incubator. Today, the entire process typically takes between 3 weeks and 1 month, and a woman can attempt two to three cycles per year. It’s worth noting that artificial insemination was already practiced on mares in Arab countries during the 14th century. The first artificial insemination in a dog occurred in 1780.
It was Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian biologist and abbot (1729 – 1799), who described and discovered the fertilization of eggs by sperm and conducted the test. Furthermore, the first experiment on a woman was carried out nine years later in 1789 when John Hunter, a Scottish surgeon, successfully achieved a pregnancy by placing his sperm in his wife’s uterus. Only in 1884, thanks to Dr. William Pancoast, was the first successful artificial insemination from a donor published in Philadelphia. Scientists and veterinarians refined the technique in the early 20th century. But it wasn’t until the 1940s that it became a common practice. Initially, this technique was used to improve cattle breeds but was later applied to other species, including humans.
In 1964, the first two sperm banks opened in Tokyo (Japan) and Iowa City (United States). It took eight more years for France: in the last quarter of 1972, the first donations were made at Necker Hospital. The first IVF baby, named Louis Brown, was born in the United Kingdom in 1978. In Brussels, a true revolution in male infertility was initiated in 1992 when intracytoplasmic sperm injection was performed.
Note that French women under the age of 43 who undergo In Vitro Fertilization are covered by the National Health Insurance. This technique is performed under certain conditions.
Key Technical Terms to Understand In Vitro Fertilization
Besides the history of IVF, it’s important to understand that the terminology used in the field of in vitro fertilization is complex. Here are some terms that will help you learn more about them.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART):
This term encompasses all clinical practices that aid in the conception of a child in infertile couples.
Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ARTs):
These are the specific medical procedures used to assist infertile couples in conceiving a child.
Surrogacy is a practice that follows ART methods but in which the embryo, obtained through fertilization between the sperm and egg of a requesting couple, is placed in the uterus of a third-party woman, known as a ‘surrogate mother.’ She carries the pregnancy to term and gives birth to a baby who is ‘genetically’ the child of the requesting couple.
In this case, a third party provides the egg and carries the child. Unlike surrogacy, the baby will not share the same genes as the requesting couple.