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Britain’s Test-Tube Triplets

#24 Science in History

21 January 1984

Today in 1984, Britain's first test-tube triplets made headlines.

The triplets were delivered, by caesarean section, to a couple who had struggled with infertility for over 11 years. The baby girl, Nourah, and two baby boys, Khaled and Chalil, entered the world through the miracle of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The world's first test-tube triplets had been delivered the previous year in Australia. Four embryos had originally been implanted in the 35-year-old mother, Anne Ma'aye, but one failed early in the pregnancy.

IVF was a relatively new technology at the time, and the birth of these triplets marked a significant move forward in the field of reproductive medicine. It involves the fertilization of an egg by sperm outside of the body, typically involving several steps:

  1. Ovarian stimulation: The woman's ovaries are stimulated with hormones to produce multiple eggs.

  2. Egg retrieval: The eggs are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure, using a needle guided by ultrasound.

  3. Fertilization: The eggs are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory dish.

  4. Embryo development: The fertilized eggs, now called embryos, are grown in the laboratory for a few days.

  5. Embryo transfer: One or more embryos are transferred to the woman's uterus, where they can implant and develop into a pregnancy.

  6. Pregnancy test: A pregnancy test is done after 2 weeks of the transfer to check if the procedure was successful.

IVF has helped millions of couples worldwide start families. It has also been used to help same-sex couples and single people start families as well, by using donor sperm and eggs.

Even though the birth of the triplets occurred nearly 40 years ago, it still remains a remarkable achievement and a sign of the progress made in the field of infertility treatment.

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