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Then, doctors 'all anxious' about test-tube baby

Now, on Louise Brown's 25th birthday, procedure commonplace

Dr. Alan Copperman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City
Dr. Alan Copperman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City

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In vitro fertilization, 25 years later. Also: New progress in dealing with dyslexia. Send questions to Weekend House Call and watch CNN at 8:30 a.m. EST Saturday and Sunday.
Mayo Clinic

(CNN) -- The world's first "test-tube baby," Louise Brown, turned 25 on Friday. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has come a long way since then. Today, more than 1 million babies worldwide have been born using the technique. Dr. Allen Copperman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, talked to CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien about the procedure.

O'BRIEN: ... In retrospect, what was done -- egg, sperm, combined in a petri dish, reimplanted in the mother -- was sort of simple. But at that time -- utterly groundbreaking. How was it for the medical community?

COPPERMAN: I think everybody was worried. This was groundbreaking technology. It hadn't been done before in humans, though the animal veterinarians and animal research had been doing this for years. But I think we were all anxious to see that the babies coming out were going to be normal. And fortunately, that is exactly what we have found.

O'BRIEN: [There was] much debate among nondoctors, as well in the community. Many people thought that Louise Brown would turn out to be a little monster, in some way, shape or form, deformed, something wrong with her.

COPPERMAN: There was a media circus. There were many groups with many different agendas. But I think that just doing this cautiously, keeping careful track of the births, has really given hope to a lot of people that haven't conceived, that they can use this technology and they can have a great outcome and a healthy family.

O'BRIEN: Today, of course, there's this tremendous acceptance of IVF. Does it surprise you that 1 percent of all babies born are born through IVF?

COPPERMAN: I think that number has increased dramatically over the years as the success of IVF has increased. So it may be even higher in the next five to 10 years.

O'BRIEN: The technique obviously has improved greatly ... . What specifically has gotten better and less risky?

COPPERMAN: Well, 25 years ago, the chance of success was one in the first 30 or 40 tries. Now, the best centers are getting almost half of women pregnant. ... We used to have to put in tons of embryos, three, four, five, six, just to achieve a pregnancy. Now our biggest problem is high order multiple gestations.

O'BRIEN: Which, if you're not a doctor, higher order multiple gestation [is] ... ?

COPPERMAN: Triplets, quintuplets. Now we're trying to put one or two embryos to make sure we don't have those problems.

O'BRIEN: Of course, a mother who has triplets or twins or even quadruplets, that's a big risk to the mother [and] also a risk to the fetus, as well. Is that the big challenge for IVF, limiting those numbers?

COPPERMAN: That's exactly the challenge. I think that the risk to the mother of having three or four fetuses includes diabetes, and bed rest for months and months, and to the babies the risks of prematurity include just about every organ system being at risk. What we're doing now instead of putting back embryos earlier after two or three days in a culture dish, we're able to culture them out longer, four or five days, to figure out who the best embryos are and only put back the best two embryos.

O'BRIEN: Louise Brown's mother had blocked fallopian tubes but [was] otherwise healthy. Her body could host a baby. Are you seeing improvements across the board for women who have more problems than just blocked fallopian tubes?

COPPERMAN: Sure. The only indication 25 years ago was tubal disease. Now we're doing exploration for unexplained infertility. We've nearly cured male infertility. We take a single sperm from a guy who doesn't have very many sperm and put it right into the egg. We're even using in vitro fertilization for genetic diseases when both parents are at risk for a specific disorder -- we're able to take an embryo, pluck off one of the cells, analyze it and if that embryo is healthy, put it into the woman. If it's not, we don't use that embryo.

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