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Sunday 27th May 2018

Test-tube babies are rare

18th July 2008

The Economist makes the point that test-tube babies are rare in the country where the first was born.


Time magazine had described it as "the most awaited birth in perhaps 2,000 years".

It was referring to the arrival in the world on 25 July 1978, of Mrs Lesley Brown's daughter Louise – the world's first test tube baby.

Since Louise's birth 30 years ago test-tube babies have become commonplace with around 3.5 million worldwide and some 200,000 born every year.

But in Britain – the country where it all began – infertile couples are among the least likely in the rich world to receive what is now considered a standard treatment.

In Britain, just under 700 attempts at in virtro fertilisation (IVF) are carried out per million of the population every year, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

It is not because of restrictive legislation, or lack of access to healthcare but because the NHS regards fertility treatment as low priority. Many couples are forced to pay for their treatment privately.

At a celebration party at Bourn Hall in Cambridgeshire where 30 IVF babies gathered for Louise Brown's 30th birthday, stories of joy and hope were matched with tales of loans, extended mortgages and extra jobs to pay for treatment.

With IVF about 25% of attempts result in babies though fertility doctors still hope for further improvements. But on current trend even if the next big breakthrough is made in Britain, it may be those living elsewhere in the world who will feel the benefits most strongly.


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