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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Five million IVF babies born to date, study says

02 July 2012

By Suzanne Elvidge

Appeared in BioNews 663

Back in July 1978, Leslie Brown became the proud mother of her first child, Louise. The birth of a single baby girl may not sound like groundbreaking news, but Louise was the first baby created by IVF. A study now estimates that she has been joined by another five million people worldwide born thanks to assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

This figure was presented at the 28th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Istanbul, Turkey, and includes babies born after IVF and ICSI. In the latter technique, the sperm is injected directly into the egg as a step of IVF.

Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society, told BBC News: 'I think it's significant that we've got to five million. It's far more socially acceptable than it has been over the last 10 or 20 years'.

Talking to the Daily Telegraph, he added: 'I think it's more than just older women relying on IVF. I think it's more about accessibility, social acceptability, funding issues and, to an extent, that IVF is part of the mainstream now'.

The International Committee for Monitoring ART (ICMART) calculated the numbers by using reported figures from 1978 to 2008, and then estimating figures for 2009 to 2012. ICMART data suggest that around 1.5 million ART cycles are now performed globally each year, leading to around 350,000 babies, and the numbers are rising.

But such data does show how many failures there still are in IVF treatment. Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist and director of IVF at Hammersmith Hospital, told BBC News that advances in IVF could lead people to 'view IVF as an insurance policy that they can access at any stage. Unfortunately the facts still suggest that IVF success rates in women as they get older are not fantastic'.

The ICMART data further illustrates how demand for IVF continues to grow. In Europe 532,260 IVF treatment cycles were performed in 2008, increasing to 537,287 in 2009.

Leslie Brown, Louise Brown's mother, died last month (reported in BioNews 662). She had a second daughter through IVF, Natalie (the 40th IVF baby), as well as a stepdaughter and five grandchildren. Natalie was the first person conceived via IVF to have a child herself (conceived naturally) and Louise also has a naturally-conceived child.

Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of CARE Fertility, UK, and a member of the Edwards and Steptoe group in Cambridge responsible for the birth of Louise Brown said: 'I remember well the time of Louise's birth, and also transferring the embryo that became her sister – both of whom are now mums in their own right. The five million milestone not only justifies all the legal and moral battles, the ethical debates and hard-fought social approval, it is also a testament to the great scientists and doctors who have worked so hard to improve the treatment of patients, and to the patients themselves who have put their faith in us'.


Daily Telegraph | 02 July 2012
BBC News | 02 July 2012
Independent | 02 July 2012
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) | 02 July 2012


24 February 2014 - by Chee Hoe Low 
More than 61,000 babies born in the USA in 2012 were conceived via IVF - hitting a record high, a report shows... [Read More]
11 November 2013 - by Dr Steven Fleming 
Despite the views of several IVF experts that intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection is overused in IVF, it continues unabated. So why is nobody listening?... [Read More]
21 October 2013 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
Since the birth of Louise Brown in July 1978, five million babies have been born with the help of IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies... [Read More]
09 July 2012 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The funding of fertility treatment in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, according to a new study presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual meeting in Istanbul... [Read More]

25 June 2012 - by Cait McDonagh 
Lesley Brown, the first woman to give birth after undergoing IVF treatment, has died aged 64. She made history when her daughter Louise was born in 1978 at Oldham General Hospital... [Read More]
09 January 2012 - by Victoria Kay 
There has been a rise in the number of British women choosing to give birth to fewer children following multiple pregnancy, leading to renewed calls for restrictions on the number of embryos implanted during IVF.... [Read More]
21 November 2011 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
There was a six percent rise last year in the number of fertility treatments carried out in the UK, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)... [Read More]
05 September 2011 - by Holly Finn 
July marked the 33rd birthday of the world's first 'test-tube' baby. Since then, four million babies have been born thanks to IVF. Many more have not. The treatment does not guarantee pregnancy and the side effects remain severe. Yet there is a brutal dishonesty. IVF is considered almost routine. Because women - and men – don't talk frankly about their fertility struggles, we continue to get a skewed message... [Read More]

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