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1978: First 'test tube baby' born

VIDEO : Oldham nurses thrilled at birth of test tube baby

The birth of the world's first "test tube baby" has been announced in Manchester.

Louise Brown was born shortly before midnight in Oldham and District General Hospital.

Weighing 5lb 12oz (2.61 kg) the baby was delivered by caesarean section because her mother, Lesley Brown, was suffering from toxaemia.

The consultant in charge of the case, Mr Patrick Steptoe, said: "All examinations showed that the baby is quite normal. The mother's condition after delivery was also excellent."

"All examinations showed the baby is quite normal"

Mr Patrick Steptoe, consultant gynaecologist

Mrs Brown, 29, has blocked fallopian tubes so she and her husband, 39, have been undergoing in vitro fertility treatment.

Last November Mrs Brown had an embryo - of her egg and her husband's sperm - implanted in her womb after it had been fertilized in a laboratory.

The technique is being pioneered by consultant gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and Cambridge research physiologist Robert Edwards.

"This work may be developed in other respects. It may include the reversal of sterilization," Dr Edwards told a press conference at Prestwich Hospital, Manchester.

More than 5,000 couples have applied for the new fertility treatment already and there are 20,000 women in the UK with blockages similar to that experienced by Lesley Brown.

None of the main religions have an official policy on artificial insemination, but the Roman Catholic Church has raised the strongest objection.

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Gordon Gray said: "I have grave misgivings about the possible implications and consequences for the future."

Louise Brown's financial future has been assured by the sale of newspaper rights for her story worth about 300,000.

In Context
Louise Brown celebrated her 21st birthday in 1999, by which time 300,000 women worldwide had conceived through IVF.

Louise's youngers sister, Natalie, also born through IVF, became the first test tube baby to give birth - naturally - in 1999.

The success rate for IVF treatment has remained at 17%.

Doctors say social rather than medical factors are the major determinant of success.

More than 70% of IVF clinics are in the UK and 80% of them charge 3,000 for each cycle of treatment.

The process has attracted concern because embryos have been mixed up in the laboratory and the chance of multiple IVF births increased in the 1990s from one in 200 to one in 20.

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