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Celebrating Louise Brown’s 40th Birthday

Louise Brown in conversation with Roger Gosden
Louise Brown in conversation with Roger Gosden

The London Women's Clinic were delighted to have been involved in the Science Museum "Late" event on 25th July 2018 providing interactive stalls for a special evening with Louise Brown, guest of honour on her 40th birthday.

Dr Kamal Ahuja, Scientific and Managing Director of the London Women’s Clinic, together with many staff, attended to hear Louise share how her Mum and Dad were one of many couples who volunteered to be part of the project to try to create a human in vitro. Roger Gosden a British-American physiologist in the field of female reproductive medicine, who worked in the lab at the time of Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy, shared how other staff had no hope for the experiment to work.

Thankfully Robert Edwards and his team were stubborn, determined and had a drive to succeed. Louise shared how her Mum’s GP had heard how depressed she was because of her infertility and had referred her in to the project. Patrick Steptoe experienced the levels of distress felt by people who were involuntarily childless on a regular basis within his clinics. Louise initially didn’t quite get just how difficult infertility is, having conceived her own children without assistance, but the joy of holding her son gave an insight to how her mum felt when she was born, after such a journey.

In fact Louise shared she hadn’t realised just how unique she was until she was a teenager; her parents removing her from the limelight before she started school. The same group of friends throughout her school days, she reflected how her classmates weren’t too bothered, until a new person joined. Then it was all about who would let them know about Louise, Louise said she didn’t mind who, but she wasn’t going to be the one telling.

Roger Gosden was able to share his early days, before Health & Safety, where he’d been scolded by Jean Purdy for warming sausage rolls in the incubator used to develop embryos, kept at a nicely warm 150°. He then asked Louise if she had any thoughts about sausage rolls as the aroma may well have permeated the embryos. Louise was quick to reply she wasn’t too bothered by sausage rolls. Rest assured no food is allowed in the modern labs, never mind incubators.

When thinking about the future, both Louise and Roger shared how disappointing it is for so many people that success rates still remain as a national average at around 26%; thankfully the London Women’s Clinic always has above average success rates, but the reality for many is that treatment is not always successful, the need for a supportive counselling team was acknowledged.

Looking further ahead, the ability to create artificial eggs and sperm brought thoughts to a possible end of donor conception, on a practical level, with a realisation that on an ethical level it may never happen in our lifetimes.

The exhibition “IVF: 6 million babies later” chronically the last 40 years of IVF continues at the Science Museum until November if you can get along to see it, we definitely recommend it.

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