Test Tube Babies

Origin of the concept of Test Tube Baby

Reproduction is a natural process. Babies come naturally. They are conceived naturally, their development is Nature’s responsibility and it culminates in their delivery naturally. That is what usually happens. But if we go back in time, there are cases of the unusual births also. In the days of Mahabharata when Gandhari, the queen of Hastinapura, conceived, something abnormal was waiting to take place. The delivery date came and went like any other date. The distraught queen, unable to bear the suspense any longer, hit herself in frustration on her stomach, hoping the baby would be forced out. Instead, all that happened was the floor was splattered with blood and flesh. Precisely at that moment, the great Vadavyasa arrived. Consoling the queen, he put each of the 100 pieces into a pot with some ghee and other materials (the details of which will be never known) and sealed them. Chanting incantations, he instructed the queen to open them only after 100 days. At the end of the period, a hundred babies began howling from within these pots waiting to be mothered by Gandhari.

Thus did the first ever set of pot-babies (improvised to test-tube babies now) arrive, conceived naturally but developed outside the mother’s womb. This was one step ahead of the test-tube baby of today who is still delivered by the mother after developing in the womb.

When did 1st test tube baby happen.

The next stage in the evolution of the baby-business was their being conceived naturally but delivered surgically. Although many other babies must have been born earlier this way, it was only Julius Caesar’s name that stuck to this kind of delivery perhaps because he was one of the first greats to be born this way.

Thereafter, nothing unusual or exciting took place on this front of baby-business except in some remote cases of science fiction such as Aldus Huxley’s. Then, in 1978, Louise Brown was born an in vitro baby in England. That is, she was conceived when her mother’s egg and father’s sperm were joined in a glass dish and then injected into the mother’s reproductive system. It made news then; it still does!

Test Tube baby - a marvel of Science

It is indeed an achievement, a marvel of science, a breakthrough. On the other side of the coin, it has raised the hopes of millions of childless couples without due justification. This bauble of a test-tube baby leaves the couple chronically depressed and economically shattered in cases when it fails to work. And these are many.

What are the facts of this medical achievement? And how many can avail of it? And what are the requisites of availing of this facility? A leading international journal says more than 3000 IVF (in vitro fertilization) babies have been born so far, nearly a third of them in the USA. But two factors come in the way of the common man availing it- economics and the flimsy chances of its success being a mere 10 per cent. That is, if 100 IVFs are tried, only 10 women stand chances of becoming pregnant. The process is tedious, but this many are willing to go through only if they can get the long coveted gift of parenthood. And, of course, the unscrupulous in the medical fraternity have been quick to case on this medical achievement.

Process of Test Tube Baby

The process is gruelling, tension-ridden. The woman must take a series of injections which are accompanied by headaches and moods. Daily blood tests and frequent ultra-sound examinations necessitate the couple having to stay close to the clinic (and such clinics in our own country are very, very few) away from home. The ripened eggs are then fertilised by the husband’s sperm in a dish. If cell-division occurs, they are transferred to the wife’s uterus. Then, more injections follow. Blood samples are regularly taken and only then pregnancy is confirmed. The whole procedure costs tremendous amounts in terms of terms of money, resources and hopes. Many times, mistakes occur. In the US, women who have miscarried after IVF have even gone to the courts for damages. In fact, a famous psycho-therapist and physician U.S. couple have already spent 10,000 dollars on two unsuccessful IVF attempts. Another case went through 12 attempts at IVF, spending 100,000 dollars for a son. How many in India have this kind of money when buying essentials itself is a feat of some kind?

Clinics that offer IVF facilities are choosy and usually take on a case only if the patient is below 40 years. The husband should have normal fertility.

There is no standardisation of the procedure and the potential for abuse is tremendous.

Joys & Sorrows of Test Tube Baby

But, after all this trouble and expense, how far does the family stand to gain? How will such births contribute to society and its welfare? One cannot be too sure for even in the hands of the great Vedavyasa, the births spelt only ruin and destruction. The Kauravas in their monstrous greed for a kingdom engineered the epic battle of Kurukshetra which nearly killed all the valorous kings of the day. Will results be any better when the doctors are lesser mortals?

The charts of such birth can give a clue to the trends they generate. In India, the first test-tube baby was born on 3rd August 1986. Although the birth brought rejoicing to its poor parents, it faced ostracism from the neighbourhood for its 'bizarre' origins.