The early days of IVF outside the UK

Jean Cohen, Alan Trounson, Karen Dawson, Howard Jones, Johan Hazekamp, Karl Gösta Nygren, Lars Hamberger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


In this article the history of IVF in geographical regions outside the UK are traced by pioneers of that time. Following the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, live births after IVF occurred in Australia in 1980, in the USA in 1981 and in Sweden and France in 1982. Following the first IVF birth in Australia, the Government of Victoria established a review of IVF research and practice which led to the proclamation of the Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984, the first legislation to regulate IVF and its associated human embryo research. Despite such restriction, IVF doctors and scientists from Victoria, especially those under the leadership of Carl Wood, Alan Trounson and Ian Johnston continued to initiate new treatments for infertility and new methods for delivering this treatment. In the USA IVF research began on animals as early as the 1930s, when Pincus and Enzmann at Harvard were involved in attempts at IVF in the rabbit. In the 1940s, John Rock attempted human IVF with 138 human oocytes without success. In 1965, Bob Edwards was with Georgeanna and Howard Jones at Johns Hopkins where attempts were made to fertilize oocytes in vitro. Clinical IVF began in earnest in the USA in 1980 with the first birth in 1981 achieved by the use of HMG - a first successful use with IVF. In France, two groups Frydman and Testart (Clamart) and Cohen, Mandelbaum and Plachot (Sevres) focused their research in particular directions. In 1981, the Clamart group developed a plasma assay for the initial rise in LH. The Sevres group developed a transport technique. Plachot produced a long series of cytogenetic analyses of oocytes and human embryos. Mandelbaum described the microstructures of the human oocyte. The start of IVF in France benefited from the help of animal researchers from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique. The first babies were born in Clamart in February 1982 and in Sèvres in June 1982. Important contributions to the development of IVF from the Nordic countries include techniques for ovarian stimulation, sonographic techniques for monitoring and vaginal oocyte retrieval and also unique possibilities for monitoring IVF safety. These developments, in combination with relatively permissive laws for the practice of reproductive medicine and relatively generous reimbursement policies, as well as a general public confidence in IVF, have led to an exceptionally high availability of IVF, within international comparison.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-459
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • ART
  • History of IVF
  • Human embryo research
  • Infertility treatment
  • Legislation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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