World's first 'test-tube baby' unveils plaque to IVF pioneer

Alex and Claire Martin and their son Robin in Cambridgeshire with Louise Brown (right), the world's first test-tube baby

Alex and Claire Martin and their son Robin in Cambridgeshire with Louise Brown (right), the world's first "test-tube baby" - Credit: Bourn Hall Clinic

The world's first "test-tube baby" has unveiled a plaque to IVF pioneer Jean Purdy for Mother's Day.

Louise Brown, who was conceived using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in 1977, unveiled the plaque to Jean at the Bourn Hall Clinic near Cambourne.

Louise was joined by Claire Martin, from Hitchin, who has recently been through the IVF process at Bourn Hall.

Claire and Alex from Hitchin with their son, Robin

Claire and Alex from Hitchin with their son, Robin - Credit: Bourn Hall Clinic

Claire gave birth to a son, Robin, in April 2020.

The plaque celebrates Jean's pioneering work, and recognises that she - along with Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards - have enabled more families to celebrate Mother's Day throughout the world.

Claire, 37, shared her IVF story to mark this year's celebration on Sunday, March 27.

She said: "I did find it challenging when we were struggling to conceive and I was preparing presentations with lots of photos of beautiful babies.

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"I remember how hard it was when I was being invited to baby showers.

"There were times when I would just avoid some social occasions altogether. It was too hard on my mental health."

Fertility usually declines significantly at 35, so Claire and her husband Alex felt pressure to conceive.

Claire said: "At first it was exciting but then it shifted to checking when I was ovulating and tracking my periods and googling on the internet."

She said that tests on her fallopian tubes and womb lining came back fine.

But Alex had a low sperm count, which meant that the couple was eligible for NHS-funded IVF.

"It was amazing to be told that we could have IVF," Claire said.

"We were given a list of clinics that we could go to and Bourn Hall Cambridge was our first choice.

"There was something really appealing about going to the world’s first IVF clinic set up by the people who had brought Louise Brown into the world."

IVF involves hormone treatment, which Claire and Alex turned into something to look forward to.

"First of all I would put an ice cube on my stomach to numb the skin so I didn’t feel anything when the needle went in," Claire explained.

"We developed this little routine after Alex bought me a nice box of chocolates.

"I would do the injection and then straightaway he would hand me a chocolate. It really felt like we were in it together."

IVF worked first time for Claire, and her son Robin was born on April 5, 2020.

Jean Purdy was part of the team who developed the IVF technology which is used today.

She went to school in Cambridge, and trained as a nurse at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Jean's team founded the Bourn Hall Clinic in 1980, two years after the birth of Louise Brown in 1978.

The Cambridge nurse died in 1985, aged 39, as a result of illness.

Louise Brown was born in July 1978 at Oldham General Hospital, the first "test-tube baby".

Jean Purdy with Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards treated Louise's mum, Lesley, throughout her successful IVF conception procedure.

More information about IVF on the NHS is online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/

More information about Bourn Hall is is also online: https://www.bournhall.co.uk/