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A Brief History of Artificial Fertilization: How Far Have We Come Since Then?

There are several treatments available for infertility. At one point, the only solution for infertile couples was adoption. Take a look at how advancements in science led to the evolution of fertility treatment.

The Beginning

There are stories that the first artificial insemination (AI) was in 1322. The Arabs used the technique to impregnate mares. Later, Henry IV, King of Castille, used the technique to impregnate his wife of six years. It was believed that Henry was impotent. However, this story has never been proven. Artificial insemination of a dog was perfected in 1784. Three puppies were born 62 days later. Fortunately, anyone who needs help today can meet with the physicians over at MCRM fertility.

Artificial Insemination and Humans

Scottish physician Dr. John Hunter was one of the most esteemed scientists of his time. He spent a great part of his life trying to find a cure for venereal disease. Dr. Hunter took pity on a young man who couldn't impregnate his wife due to a medical condition. Hunter gave the man several syringes and instructions on how to inject his sperm into his wife. The couple was able to have one child. Dr. J. Marion Sims was the first U.S. physician to try artificial insemination on women. He performed 55 unsuccessful inseminations.

Dr. William Pancoast performed the first recorded artificial insemination procedure at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The patient was a Quaker woman who had been trying to conceive. Dr. Pancoast secretly discovered the husband was sterile. Pancoast used sperm from a student to inseminate the woman. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Dr. Pancoast never told the woman what he did. However, the student wrote a published paper about it. It was discovered that Pancoast had actually told the husband the truth.

AI became popular in Europe. Further, it was common to perform AI on animals. In 1899, Russian Ilya Ivanovich Ivanoff was the first to develop AI methods similar to those used today. In the early 20th century, several doctors began to claim they were successfully using AI. The 1940s saw 10,000 successful AI pregnancies in the U.S. The first modern account of AI was published in a British medical journal. The author, Dr. Mary Barton, was vilified and condemned.

Modern Days

AI procedures continued and physicians advised clients to keep it private. The treatments were done by private doctors and the practice was unregulated. The number of children born due to AI doubled by the 1950s. The first pregnancy achieved with frozen sperm was reported in 1953. Further, it was reported that 50,000 children were born due to AI in 1955.

Sperm banks were introduced in the 1970s. Donors were primarily students and few were screened for genetic diseases. Donors' identity was kept confidential to avoid legal issues. The first successful in-vitro fertilization pregnancy (IVF) occurred in 1977. The pregnancy did not result in a live birth. In 1978, Louise Brown became the first baby born from IVF in England. The first baby born using IVF arrived in America in 1981. Other advancements were to follow including a baby born using donated eggs. Indeed, a 63-year-old woman gave birth in 1996 using a donated egg.

Infertility Treatments have come a long way. The procedure was initially used to breed horses. Centuries later, babies are born all the time thanks to advancements in fertility science.