With the Nobel prize for medicine awarded to Robert Edwards, the pioneer British biologist who developed in vitro fertilization (IVF) for humans, "any remaining doubts about the importance of 'test tube babies' that have lingered over the past 32 years ago should finally be put to rest," says Michael S. Opsahl, M.D., recently named one of "Washington State's Best Doctors" in Washington Magazine.
"IVF, once perceived as expensive and a last resort for infertile couples, is now considered a first-line infertility treatment because it works so well," said Opsahl of Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences.
"I will never forget the birth of the first IVF baby July 25, 1978, because it was also my birthday and I had just graduated from med school. I was somewhat surprised by the paranoia that surrounded the birth," he said. "The idea of engineering super humans was far from our minds; curing infertility was foremost."
Later that year, Opsahl attended lectures by Professor Edwards and his partner, gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, now deceased. "It seemed to be almost science fiction—even for those of us in the field," he added.
"We will continue to have unresolved issues around rapidly changing scientific knowledge, especially with regard to assisted reproductive technologies, which sometimes elicit strong emotional opinions," he said. "In truth, we only proceed with thoughtful evidence-based steps. Best of all, long-term studies reassure us that IVF children are as healthy and intelligent as other children," Opsahl said.
Today, the national average for IVF success is approximately 30 percent, compared to 5 to 10 percent in the first decade of IVF. At NCRS, rates are 64 percent for women under 35; 48 percent for women 35 to 37; and 37 percent for women 38 to 40 (according to statistics collected during 2005-2009 for the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.)
Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences