In Vitro

In Vitro fertilization: The scientific stork of these times

By: Migdalis Pérez

Defined as an assisted reproductive technology, also called in vitro insemination, it helps women get pregnant when other methods have failed.

Although it is unknown who attributed the stork the extraordinary responsibility of bringing so many babies into this world, the migratory bird has long carried the weight of that childhood story.

Parents determined to hide from their children the reality of human reproduction or seduced by the strings of imagination sucumbed to the myth without realizing that science was clearing its way and impetuously claiming its corresponding place.

Thus, what one day was a tender response for curious infants immersed in the story of the striding animal loaded with children today is a rather old-fashioned tale. 

Displaced by the scientific truth of the birth of man and, even more, by the advances that make delivery possible when there are no biological conditions, the role of the stork, although almost magical, ended up giving way to these remarkable advances. 

We are talking about in vitro fertilization (IVF), an achievement registered for the first time in the United Kingdom, considered the most significant medical miracle of the time, and later modernized by the talent of geneticists.

What is IVF?

The IVF treatment —thanks to which the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born on July 25, 1978— consists of the laboratory union of nearly one million sperm from the father with eggs from the mother (no more than 10) to achieve successful fertilization.

  Once the egg, or several of them, is fertilized, doctors implant at least three in the mother’s womb to increase the chances of success. In these cases, the birth rate is between 18 and 20%, according to specialists in the field. But the benefits of the method continue.

Since the end of the last century, in case the extracted spermatozoa are of poor quality, scientists have used microinjection. Through this procedure, the male cells are injected directly into the egg, and the results are similar to those achieved by standard IVF.

In one way or another, until 2019 (the date on which the most recent data is available), assisted fertility had made it possible for some nine million children to enter the world, according to a report by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, quoted by The Washington Post.

All, apparently, happy infants and even more intelligent than those born ordinarily, in the opinion of experts from the Free University of Brussels, who investigated the matter and published the result of their curious findings in the journal Human Reproduction.

They say, «Children born by artificial conception are more cognitively developed than children conceived naturally.» Or put another way: they have a much higher IQ.

Who is the first test-tube baby?

Regarded as a medical marvel, Louise Brown, now 45, leads an ordinary life, far from public appearances. Born in the English port city of Bristol, she appears in the Guinn-ess World Records as living proof of a feat of modern science.

His mother, at the time of delivery aged 30, and his father, aged 38, had given up all hope of having a child because a blockage in her fallopian tubes prevented her from achieving a pregnancy.

They then learned that two doctors, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, had been working for ten years in Oldham, near Manchester, solving such problems. Taking advantage of a lottery prize, they decided to undergo the adventure, and after several necessary consultations, they saw their dreams come true.

The pregnancy proceeded normally, and the delivery was possible through a cesarean section. In this way, the first artificially procreated human being was born, and since then, she has been the center of international public opinion.

How successful is IVF?

While assisted fertilization is modernizing and shares paths with cloning, the success of the reproductive technique increases with percentages of live births of 55.6% in women under 35 years of age, 40.8% in females between 35 and 37, 26.8% in pregnant women between 38 and 40, and 7%, in those over 40.

Undoubtedly, age is the determining factor for the success of the procedure. For this reason, doctors suggest that the process begin as soon as possible after knowing that a normal pregnancy will not be possible. Changing the diet for a healthier one and practicing physical exercises are also highly recommended.

Thus, in the world of IVF, expressions such as «sperm bank,» «egg donation,» «embryo freezing,» and «surrogate mother» are very common today in the popular vocabulary, not to mention «test-tube baby.» Phrases that comprise the curriculum vitae of one of the most remarkable medical feats of the modern era, without a doubt, the scientific stork of these times.