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Louise Brown: World's first IVF baby's family archive unveiled

A family archive about the world’s first IVF baby, containing letters, gifts, photos and newspaper clippings, has been unveiled on her 40th birthday.

Lesley Brown held the mementoes, including hospital appointment cards and correspondence, after the birth of her daughter Louise in July 1978.

They were stored in a wardrobe at the family’s Bristol home and only found following Mrs Brown’s death in 2012.

Louise Brown donated them to Bristol Archives which is displaying them.

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Her mother and father, John, were the first couple to successfully undergo in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and their daughter was born at Oldham General Hospital on 25 July 1978.

The family was sent hundreds of cards from well-wishers, as well as letters from women struggling to conceive.

Louise Brown, now herself a mother-of-two, said: “My mum kept everything concerned with my birth from the appointment cards when she was trying for a baby right through to all the correspondence from journalists and people all over the world following my birth.

“Now that IVF is an established worldwide technique I thought it was important that people get a true view of how it all started from our family point of view.”

Bristol Archives received a grant to catalogue and conserve it and parts of the Lesley Brown Collection will be displayed at the Science Museum in London and later at Bristol’s M Shed museum from December.

In one letter from December 1977, Dr Robert Edwards wrote: “The early results on your blood and urine samples are very encouraging, and indicate that you might be in early pregnancy. So please take things quietly – no skiing, climbing, or anything too strenuous including Xmas shopping!”

Many other cards were simply addressed to “Lesley and John Brown, parents of the world’s first test tube baby”.

IVF in numbers

  • More than 300,000 babies have been born from IVF treatment in the UK since Louise Brown
  • The IVF birth success rate grew from 8% in 1991 to 21% in 2016
  • One in seven couples have trouble conceiving
  • 16% of IVF pregnancies result in twins or more
  • A woman’s fertility tends to decline after the age of 35 and men experience a similar decline after the age of 40
  • Since 1991, the average age of women receiving IVF treatment has increased from 33.6 to 35.5
  • Sources: NHS, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

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