England s Test-Tube Baby
The first baby to be conceived outside of it s mother promises to usher in a new and maybe, a revolutionary era of human reproduction. In July, Lesley Brown was getting close to delivery. This was said to be the world s first test-tube baby at the Oldham and District General Hospital, 190 miles outside of London. The infant was created when the egg of the mother was joined with the father s sperm in a special culture medium prepared by gynecologist Patrick Steptoe of Oldham Hospital and physiologist Robert Edwards of Cambridge University. The new technique was intended for women whose Fallopian tubes were so damaged that the fertilized egg cannot pass through the tube to the womb.
The egg is extracted from the ovary with a laparoscope that is put through the abdomen. The egg is then placed in a culture medium of special nutrients stimulating human tissue where it is fertilized by the man s sperm. In 1976, Steptoe and Edwards reported in Lancet that a woman became pregnant this way, but the pregnancy failed after 13 weeks. Biologists point out that under normal circumstances, 25 percent of the population is born with some genetic abnormalities. They feared that if something was wrong with Britain s test-tube baby, correct or not, to medicine science and not to nature.
However, Dr. D.T. Chalkley of the Department of Health Education and Welfare comments: I think it s highly unlikely that the risks to the developing embryo in this case are any greater than the course of ordinary reproduction. Mrs. Brown went through a number of tests including amniocentesis, which detects the sex of the child in addition to chromosomal abnormalities such as retardation. Steptoe tried to make her quit smoking, but she had those occasional urges. She knew all of the concerns about her and her baby because she had a television and radio in her room. A nurse reports: She just feels like any other mother- to- be: tired, fed up and fat.
Before Lesley Brown was put in the hospital for monitoring, she talked about babies with neighbors, but showed no signs of abnormal pregnancy. One neighbor recalls, I never knew there was anything unusual. With every claim of success has come the inevitable thought of doubt. In the 1940 s, a Boston gynecologist Dr. John Rock, a pioneer of development of the birth control pill, reported that he and colleagues had managed to fertilize an egg in vito. But other scientists believe that few cell divisions observed by Rock were nothing more than parthenogic cleavage. (Division of the egg with out the involvement of the sperm), probably introduced by incidental stimulation of the ovum. Lesley Brown delivered her baby at 11:47 p.m. Dr.Patrick Steptoe proudly reported, The anxieties are over. We ve got a nice, healthy, normal baby.