Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

Part Four
Advanced Infertility
Techniques

Advanced infertility techniques, also known as the new reproductive technologies, assisted conception, and reproductive medicine, are commonly perceived to originate with the birth in 1978 of Louise Joy Brown, the first IVF, or test-tube, baby. In vitro fertilization (IVF) heralds a new age in reproduction, as it is the first time that medical and scientific interventions have succeeded in externalizing the moment of human conception from women's bodies. Prior to this, all successful and routine reproductive interventions focused on moments preceding conception (contraception, hyperovulation, and sperm freezing) or at later stages of pregnancy and at birth. Some of these earlier developments contributed to advanced infertility techniques, most notably sperm freezing and storing; hyperovulation (developed from oral contraceptive research); and surgical techniques including laparoscopy, ultrasound-guided retrieval, and micromanipulation. There is evidence of sporadic scientific explorations of human conception dating as far back as the mid-eighteenth century. However, the development of a successful and routine medical practice around the latest stage in human reproduction began during the 1980s.

IVF forms the central component in an array of advanced infertility techniques. From early trials with natural menstrual cycles and single- egg collection, IVF routines now include suspension of all female reproductive hormonal production, complicated hyperovulation protocols, and constant and careful screening of a woman's hormonal levels and egg development. Ultrasound-guided retrieval has evolved as the norm for collecting eggs. Culture media and storing techniques have been refined in attempts to improve relatively low success rates (about 25 percent being the best rate in terms of bringing home a baby). Embryo freezing, along with the advances in screening, retrieving, and storing techniques, makes the procedure more efficient and allows for more embryo implants. Egg and embryo donation are also enabled as a result and now

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