Lesly Brown, the first woman to have a baby through invitro fertilization (IVF), died yesterday after a short illness. It's been 33 years since Brown gave birth to her daughter, Louise, through IVF developed by Nobel Prize winner Robert Edwards.
By now everyone knows at least one person who has conceived a baby through IVF. But 33 years ago, it sounded like science fiction. Leslie's daughter Louise was called a "test tube baby" -- like it was the test tube who was pregnant. Now IVF is just one of a few ways women can become mothers.
A generation ago Brown was having trouble conceiving because her fallopian tubes were blocked. She has said that at the time she felt alone in her infertility. "So many people now need to go through IVF whereas, at the start, I felt like I was the only one." Thanks to her willingness to take a great leap into the unknown, countless "infertile" women have been able to get pregnant and deliver a baby.
And the stigma of being a "test tube" baby has vanished. Finding out that you're infertile and facing fertility treatments can still be disappointing and terrifying. It doesn't work for everyone. But it's made so many families possible -- including for same-sex couples thanks to IVF and surrogate mothers. IVF has radically changed families as we know them. It's opened up the option of parenthood to more people.
There have been downsides to IVF: Extremes like "Octomom" Nadya Suleman, for example. The process can be expensive and physically gruelling. And adoption advocates believe it's a waste when there are so many children already here who need parents. Still, it's an amazing innovation that many families I know personally are tremendously grateful for.
Did you conceive any of your children through IVF? Do you have friends or family members who have?
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