Monday morning, as Robert Edwards received the 2010 Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in the area of in vitro fertilization, we couldn't help but think of the number of people that celebrated with him.
First, we have to count the 4 million babies who have been born worldwide through IVF, a medical procedure that allows a human egg to be fertilized outside of a woman's body and then implanted in it. Then, of course, there are the parents of those 4 million, many of whom had very few options to treat their infertility prior to 1978, the year that the world met its first "test-tube baby," Louise Brown. Add to that the children of the original generation of IVF children, and well, you've got a lot of very thankful people.
In the middle of all this celebration, it's easy to forget that what has now become a commonplace (if expensive) procedure was once a very controversial practice. Reporting on the 20th Anniversary of the procedure, American Radio Works writes:
On July 25, 1978, a blonde, blue-eyed, squalling little baby entered this world swaddled in news headlines. The Associated Press declared her a "truck driver's miracle child." Good Housekeeping magazine gasped that her in vitro birth was "the most extraordinary birth in human history." But University of Minnesota historian Elaine Tyler May remembers that Louise Brown's conception also provoked deep social fears of science gone amok.
"If you look back to the way IVF was discussed in 1978, people were talking about human-animal hybrids, monstrous babies, eugenics, and all kinds of scary reproductive engineering," May said. "Eventually that whole discussion calmed down."
While occasional flare-ups over IVF still make news from time to time (as when Nadya Suleman used the procedure to give birth to octuplets), those incidents are increasingly rare--and frankly, disproportionally covered by the media--in a country where 350 clinics perform the procedure some 40,000 times annually. These days, with about 10% of couples suffering from infertility, many of us have friends, family and countless daily blessings to thank Robert Edwards for, so we thought it might be worthwhile to give a shout out to the lives (our own or others) that have blossomed through IVF.
Was your life or someone else's changed by IVF? Tell us about it, below.
(And I'd like to start this off with a huge thanks for Kaleya, beautiful and much loved daughter of Lecia and Thor. We waited a long time for you, baby! Thank you, Robert Edwards.)