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WJBD - Health & Fitness News - Test Tube Baby Louise Brown Turns 35

Test Tube Baby Louise Brown Turns 35

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, was born 35 years ago on Thursday, revolutionizing the field of reproductive medicine and giving infertile women hope that they could become mothers.

Now, the procedure is so common that more than five million people around the world have been conceived through in vitro fertilization or IVF.

Brown's mother had blocked fallopian tubes, still one of the most frequent causes of infertility in women.  But Brown herself, who has a 6-year-old son, never required IVF and just revealed she is expecting a second child.

Infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S, or one in eight couples, according to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.

Today, thanks to the pioneering efforts of British Nobel Prize winners Dr. Patrick Steptoe and biologist Robert Edwards, IVF is performed successfully around the world with live birth rates using non-donor eggs as high as 40 percent, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

Assisted reproductive technology accounts for slightly more than 1 percent of all U.S. births -- more than 61,000 births in 2008, the last year for which there are statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But despite advances in medical technology, society still stigmatizes women who cannot conceive, according to RESOLVE's president and CEO Barbara Collura.

"We've had really amazing medical breakthroughs, but I don't think that 35 years later the discussion of infertility is much more mainstream," said Collura.  "That's because public understanding is not quite there."

"In 35 years a lot has changed," she said.  "But a woman being told right now that she's having trouble conceiving is going to have the emotions and feelings of loss."

And many women do not have access to IVF because insurance companies do not cover the costs or they require riders that result in higher premiums.  That's because in many policies it is considered an elective procedure, like plastic surgery.

One cycle of IVF, which includes medications and all procedures, including cryo-preservation of embryos, can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000, according to Collura.

Using a donor egg can be as much as $35,000 to $40,000.  Surrogacy, which in some states includes compensation for the carrier as well as her health care, can exceed $80,000.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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