The development of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has revolutionized the field of reproductive medicine and enabled millions of couples worldwide to conceive children. IVF is at the center of the surrogacy process, and for Los Angeles Surrogacy as a leading surrogacy agency in the U.S. the developments in the fields of IVF and reproductive medicine are of extreme importance.
This article covers the history of in-vitro fertilization: scientific breakthroughs, legal battles, and controversies. It also examines the current status of IVF worldwide and discusses the potential future of reproductive medicine.
IVF: Early History
The history of IVF dates back to the early 20th century, but it was not until the 1970s that the first successful human IVF procedure was performed. Since then, IVF has undergone significant advancements, and it has become a widely accepted and effective method of treating infertility.
The concept of in-vitro fertilization was first proposed by a British scientist named J.B.S. Haldane in 1923. However, it was not until the 1950s that significant progress was made in this field.
In 1951, Robert Edwards, a young biologist at the University of Edinburgh, began studying the fertilization of rabbit eggs in vitro. He collaborated with another scientist, Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist who had experience in the field of laparoscopy, a minimally-invasive surgical technique.
Edwards and Steptoe developed a technique that allowed them to extract eggs from the ovaries of rabbits and fertilize them in a Petri dish. They could then transfer the embryos into the uterus of a surrogate mother rabbit, and successfully lead the animal’s pregnancy to term.
In 1968, they made their first attempt to fertilize a human egg outside of the body, but the experiment failed.
First Successful IVF Procedure
It was not until the 1970s that the first successful human IVF procedure was performed.
Edwards and Steptoe achieved their first breakthrough in 1977 when they successfully fertilized a human egg in vitro and transferred the resulting embryo into the uterus of Lesley Brown, a 32-year-old woman who had been trying to conceive for nine years.
On July 25, 1978, Lesley Brown gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Louise Joy Brown. The birth of Louise was a milestone in the history of reproductive medicine, demonstrating the possibility of using IVF to treat infertility.
The birth of Louise Joy Brown met with both excitement and controversy. The event led to a heated debate about the ethics of reproductive technology and the legal implications of using IVF to conceive children.
In the United States, the legality of IVF was challenged in several court cases. In 1979, the state of New York passed a law prohibiting IVF, but the law was eventually overturned in Appeals in the case of Margaret S. v. Edwards in 1985. The Court of Appeals held that the right to procreate was a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, and IVF was a legitimate method of exercising that right.
In Europe, the legal battles surrounding IVF were more complicated. In the United Kingdom, where Edwards and Steptoe had conducted their research, IVF was initially met with skepticism by both the medical establishment and the general public.
In 1980, the UK government established a committee to investigate the ethical implications of IVF, and in 1984, this committee issued a report recommending that IVF should be allowed under certain conditions.
In France, IVF remained illegal until 1994. Eventually, after a decade of protests and activism, the French national assembly legalized the procedure. However, the law was limited in scope, and it only allowed IVF to be used for the treatment of infertility in heterosexual couples.
In 2013, the French parliament passed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. However, this law still did not legalize access to assisted reproductive technology. Single women and lesbian couples had to travel abroad to receive IVF.
This changed in July 2021, when legislators voted to legalize IVF for all women, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation. The new law also allows for the use of donor sperm and embryos, as well as surrogacy for women who are unable to carry a pregnancy.
In other parts of the world, IVF remains illegal or heavily regulated.
In some countries, such as Italy and Portugal, IVF is legal, but certain types of treatment, such as egg donation and surrogacy, are prohibited. In other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and some parts of Africa, IVF is illegal due to religious or cultural reasons.
Since the birth of Louise Joy Brown in 1978, IVF technology has undergone significant advancements. Today, it is a highly sophisticated medical procedure that involves several other techniques:
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A technique used to treat male infertility, where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
- Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A technique to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities before they are implanted into the uterus.
- Cryopreservation: A technique used to freeze embryos or eggs for future use.
These advancements in IVF technology have increased success rates and made it a more accessible and affordable option for couples struggling with infertility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.9% of all infants born in the United States are conceived through IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies.
The Future of Reproductive Medicine
As reproductive technology continues to evolve, some experts have raised concerns about the potential ethical and social implications of these advancements.
One of the most controversial fields of research is genetic engineering, which involves manipulating the genes of embryos to prevent genetic diseases or enhance certain traits. The field raises obvious ethical concerns linked to 20th century history.
In addition to genetic engineering, other emerging technologies such as artificial wombs and gene editing could also transform the field of reproductive medicine. These technologies could revolutionize the way we think about reproduction, but they also raise a host of ethical and legal questions.
As a leading surrogacy agency nationwide, Los Angeles Surrogacy remains fully abreast of technological developments in our field of expertise. We are also keenly aware that surrogacy involves ethical and legal considerations that intended parents must face in approaching their decision to resort to a surrogate mother to give birth to their child.
Our staff is trained to approach these sensitive issues with the care they require, both for intended parents, surrogacy candidates, and surrogate mothers.