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Wellcome Film of the Month: The first ‘test tube’ baby, Louise Brown, is born in 1978

25 Jul, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgLouise Brown, the World’s first “test tube” baby, celebrates her birthday today, the 25th July. She was born in 1978, at Oldham and District General Hospital, Greater Manchester, UK.

Her birth was the fruition of many decades of medical research by Patrick Steptoe (b. 1913- d.1988), an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Robert Geoffrey Edwards (b. 1925), a physiologist. Together, using a minimally invasive “keyhole” technique, laparoscopy, they extracted human ova which were then fertilised by sperm in fluid and finally re-implanted in a woman’s uterus.

This specially commissioned film provided an official document in response to the considerable press and public interest at the time. In fact, there are two versions, the one above, which was for news circulation, and another ‘clinical’ version running at 15 minutes in length, which can be viewed or downloaded by visiting the Wellcome Library’s catalogue.

The circumstances surrounding the filming of the birth are interesting. Lesley was suffering from toxaemia (pre-eclampsia, a serious condition associated with hypertension and the presence of proteins in the urine – if left untreated it can lead to eclampsia with the risk of coma during pregnancy or immediately after birth). Consequently, Louise’s birth was by caesarean section under a general anaesthetic and Lesley is therefore totally unconscious as her part in history is made.

Louise’s younger sister, Natalie, was also born through IVF and became the first test tube baby to give birth (in her case, naturally) in 1999. Louise is now married and also with a (naturally born) family of her own.

Since Louise’s birth more than 3 million babies have been conceived and delivered through fertility treatment worldwide.

  • Brinsden, P. (2009). Thirty years of IVF: The legacy of Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards Human Fertility, 12 (3), 137-143 DOI: 10.1080/14647270903176773

Wellcome Film

You can learn about the Wellcome Film project here. If you would like to make use of this archive footage in your own projects, please visit the Wellcome Library catalogue to download the original file, which is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales licence.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. azhar permalink
    18 Aug, 2010 9:22 am

    sir i want the deatail regaring test tube baby in uk plz help me in this regrd

  2. 18 Aug, 2010 2:02 pm

    Hi Azhar,

    The place to start for information about fertility treatments (and test tube babies) in the UK is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

    Their website is: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/

    I hope that helps,

    Jonathan

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  1. Why the first test tube baby nearly didn’t happen « Wellcome Trust Blog

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