14 July 2020

How IVF Treatments Have Developed Since The Birth Of The First IVF Baby

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Sims IVF

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The birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first “test-tube baby’’, heralded the beginning of a new age for fertility treatments the world over. In the lead up to her 42nd birthday on the 25th of July, we take a look at how IVF treatments have changed since that landmark day in 1978.

IVF Births

Then:

On the day of Louise Brown’s birth, her mother was brought to her Caesarean section via a darkened corridor with only a select few members of the hospital’s staff being aware of the procedure in an effort to avoid unwanted media attention. 

Now:

IVF births have become relatively commonplace with an estimated 8 million IVF births occurring since Louise Brown’s birth. 

Egg/Embryo Freezing

Then:

Until the mid 1980’s there was no option to freeze eggs or embryos. This meant that women wishing to try subsequent cycles had to undergo the uncomfortable egg collection procedure again.

Now:

In the event that an IVF treatment cycle produces more embryos than needed, these can be frozen and used at a later date.

Treatment Cycles

Then:

In the early days of IVF women were required to remain hospitalised for most of their treatment cycle with all of their urine being tested so hormone levels could be monitored sufficiently.

Now:

Women can continue to lead their lives much as they would normally - with the addition of regular appointments for ultrasounds and blood tests.

Egg Retrievals

Then:

With no way to control exactly when ovulation would occur, egg retrievals had to be scheduled exactly 26 hours after hormone monitoring indicated ovulation. This meant that egg retrievals could occur at any time regardless of convenience - even in the middle of the night.

The egg retrieval procedure itself required invasive surgery, with a small incision being made on the abdomen so that a camera and tools could be inserted.

Now:

Injectable fertility drugs can be used to control when ovulation will happen. This means that egg retrieval procedures can be scheduled at a convenient time, as well as increasing the chance of success by allowing doctors to have more control of the ovulation process.

The egg retrieval procedure no longer requires invasive surgery, with an ultrasound guided needle being used to retrieve the eggs. This development means that the procedure is less risky and involves a shorter recovery time.

Syringe in hand

Cost

Then:

IVF first became available in Ireland in 1985. At this time there were no financial supports available for patients meaning that the high cost was prohibitive for the majority of the population.

Now:

While fertility treatments are still expensive, there are financial supports in place that can help to ease the financial pain. For example, the government offers a tax refund scheme on all healthcare which allows patients to avail of a tax refund of 20% of their treatment cost. The Drugs Payment Scheme can also help to minimise the costs associated with the medication required for IVF treatments with the government absorbing any additional medication costs once an individual or family has spent €124 a month on medication.

Companies are doing their bit to help their employees too, with a number of companies funding or part funding their employees fertility treatments through Carrot.

Access Fertility also offers programmes that fix the cost of treatment with a 100% refund if the treatment is unsuccessful, allowing patients to minimise the potential mounting costs associated with IVF.


The past 42 years have brought about a number of significant developments in the world of fertility treatments and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next 42 will bring. If you are considering fertility treatment, we would love to hear from you, just contact us to find out about the best options for you.

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