How Has IVF Treatment Changed Over the Last 40 Years?

The first ever “test tube” baby, Louise Brown, reached the age of 40 this year. IVF treatment has brought more than 8 million babies into the world since she was born in 1978, but fertility treatment has changed a lot over the decades.

The Biggest Changes in IVF Treatment

Fertility treatment has changed in many ways since 1978. Many of the biggest changes are in the way that people think about fertility and IVF:

  • Attitudes to IVF treatmenHow Has IVF Treatment Changed Over the Last 40 Years?t have changed a lot as it has become more common. Some people were very concerned about IVF when it was first introduced, on both ethical and medical grounds. Many healthy babies have now been born and many of us are willing to talk openly about our own experiences with infertility and IVF.
  • The emotional side of fertility treatment gets a lot more attention now and there is more support available for people who are undergoing IVF. We are more aware of the impact of stress on fertility and how important it is for patients to feel supported during their treatment.
  • We have a better understanding of fertility than we did 40 years ago, especially when it comes to male fertility problems. Knowing more about the causes of fertility problems can help us to provide the best care. It also enables individuals to take action to improve their own fertility, for example though lifestyle changes like losing weight or giving up smoking.

It isn’t just the way that we think about IVF that have changed over the last four decades. The techniques that we use during IVF treatment have also been improved over time:

  • Limits on the number of embryos transferred during IVF treatment were introduced early on to reduce the chances of multiple births. Since the 1980s it has also been possible to freeze the remaining embryos for use in future cycles of IVF.
  • The ICSI technique was developed in the late 1980s to inject individual sperm cells into each egg. This enabled IVF to be performed successfully even for men with very low sperm counts or other fertility issues.
  • Egg collection can now be performed using a needle that is guided by ultrasound. In the past, it required riskier and more invasive keyhole surgery.

All of these changes have had a big impact on the experiences of patients who are undergoing fertility treatment. The success rate of IVF has also increased, from around 10% to about 40% per cycle, on average.

The Future of Fertility Treatment

IVF treatment has come a long way since it was first used 40 years ago, but we still have a lot to learn about fertility and the techniques that we use now can be improved even more. Researchers are exploring many different aspects of fertility, from the impact of pollution and other environmental factors, to the way that the embryo interacts with the womb lining. As we learn more and continue to develop new fertility treatments, we will be able to help even more people to create and grow their families.