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Mother of first IVF baby dies at 64

25 June 2012
Appeared in BioNews 662

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.

Her daughter said that she was a very private person 'who ended up in the world spotlight because she wanted a family so much'. Lesley died at the Bristol Royal Infirmary on 6 June after a short illness.

Brown was unable to conceive naturally due to her having blocked fallopian tubes. She received IVF treatment under the supervision of Professor Robert Edwards and Dr Patrick Steptoe. Although other women had already been implanted with fertilised eggs, Louise was the first child to be born after such treatment.

At the time IVF was a controversial procedure, drawing criticism from religious organisations but also some within the scientific community. An estimated four million women worldwide have now given birth thanks to the technique. Professor Edwards and Dr Steptoe founded the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge two years after Lesley gave birth, and it is now a leading centre for IVF treatment. Professor Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2010.

Brown had been trying for a family for nine years before trying IVF. Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London said he remembered Lesley as full of 'bravery and moral courage'.

Three years ago Brown said that she was so desperate to have a baby that she was willing to do anything to give birth. She said: 'I'm just so grateful that I'm a mum at all because without IVF I never would have been and I wouldn't have my grandchildren'.

After another round of IVF, Brown gave birth to a second daughter - Natalie. She leaves five grandchildren, as well as a step-daughter. Louise Brown, who gave birth to her son Cameron five years ago, said: 'We are all missing her terribly'.

24 June 2013 - by Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi 
Norfolk's first IVF clinic has officially opened, offering local couples the opportunity to receive treatment outside London and Cambridge for the first time...
4 February 2013 - by Sandy Starr 
In 2010, Professor Sir Robert Edwards was awarded a long overdue Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for his the part he played in pioneering both the theory and practice of IVF. This conference focused on the kind of cutting-edge research that takes Professor Edwards' legacy forward...
30 July 2012 - by Cait McDonagh 
'The New Elizabethans', Radio 4's series profiling the great and the good of the last 60 years, turned to the life and achievements of Sir Robert Edwards, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on IVF...
2 July 2012 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
A study estimates that five million people worldwide have been born thanks to assisted reproductive technologies...
5 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...
13 June 2011 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
IVF pioneer Professor Robert Edwards has been awarded a knighthood in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours. The knighthood follows Professor Edwards' Nobel Prize in Medicine win last year for his work developing this fertility treatment. His work led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first so-called 'test tube' baby, in July 1978...
21 July 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, will next week celebrate her 30th birthday - but as parents and children born through IVF representing each year since Louise was born came together at Bourn Hall fertility clinic to mark the occasion, many commentators have pointed to the continued...
10 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, is expecting her own child. Now aged 27, Louise was born after the first successful IVF treatment on 25 July 1978 - now she and her husband, Wesley Mullinder, are preparing for their first baby in January. The couple...
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