National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW): The Evolution of Infertility & Fertility Care
In the past, people often struggled with the devastating effects of infertility secretly, with little hope for a positive outcome. Scientific understanding of the factors contributing to infertility was limited, as were treatment options.
Today, much of that has changed with the evolution of advanced fertility treatment, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), third-party reproduction, fertility preservation, and more inclusive fertility care (e.g., male infertility, LGBTQ+ family-building, etc.). In addition, the taboo surrounding infertility is dissipating due to a more open discussion facilitated by people sharing their experience, strength, and hope on social media. Chelsea Fertility NYC honors NIAW with the story of how far fertility treatment has come historically.
A Brief History of Fertility Science
Historically, there was no treatment for infertility which was referred to as “sterility.” Interestingly, people once considered infertility a religious matter. However, as doctors began to investigate the causes of infertility, research eventually led to the possibility of medical intervention. This ultimately culminated with one of the biggest breakthroughs in reproductive treatment history – the invention of IVF.
Fertility Care: Major Milestones
- 1790 – Scottish surgeon John Hunter successfully adapts artificial insemination techniques to achieve human impregnation.
- 1827 – The human ova is first observed by Baltic German scientist Karl Ernst von Baer.
- 1876 – German embryologist Oscar Hertwig proves that fertilization occurs when a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell.
- 1884 – The first artificial insemination using donor sperm is performed by American physician William Pancoast.
- 1890 – The first successful mammalian embryo transfer is performed on a pair of rabbits by British zoologist Walter Heape.
- 1920s-1930s – Progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are identified and studied for their roles in reproduction and pregnancy.
- 1934 – IVF is successfully performed on rabbits by American biologist Gegorgy Goodwin Pincus. The procedure is initially met with controversy.
- 1938-1944 – Harvard scientific researchers John Rock and Miriam Menkin experiment with IVF to develop techniques for fertilization.
- 1978 – The world’s first IVF baby is born.
Infertility Treatment Innovations Today
Several significant medical innovations have contributed to the evolution of infertility treatment, such as IVF, third-party reproduction (i.e., egg donation, surrogacy, etc.), and fertility preservation.
IVF involves fertilizing an egg with sperm in a petri dish outside the body. The procedure ranks as one of the most effective types of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Patients may use their own eggs and sperm in IVF, or opt to use eggs and/or sperm from a known or anonymous donor. An embryo is transferred to a uterus after IVF. In most cases, IVF takes about three weeks for one cycle of IVF, but sometimes it can take longer.
Third-party reproduction is fertility care that involves a neutral party providing some aspect of the reproductive cycle, including egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation, and gestational surrogacy. Egg, sperm, and embryo donation all entail someone donating their reproductive materials, where as gestational surrogacy involves someone carrying a pregnancy and giving birth on behalf of another family. These incredible techniques have made it possible for infertile patients, single aspiring parents, and LGBTQ+ families have a biological child. has enabled LGBTQ+, infertile, and single individuals to become parents.
Fertility preservation involves the rapid cooling of reproductive cells, tissues, or organs for storage and future use. In fertility care, sperm, eggs, and embryos can all be frozen and stored in cryopreserved stasis for a very long time. When ready, they are thawed and prepared for their fertility procedures.
Today, researchers continue to make tremendous strides in the advancement of fertility care. Some examples of advanced fertility treatment modalities include:
- 5-Day Blastocyst Transfer – the embryo is transferred on day five of development, when it is considered a “blastocyst.” Studies show this process reduces the chance of multiples and increases the implantation success rate of the developing embryo.
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – a procedure involving the injection of sperm into an egg; ICSI is a tool for treating various types of male infertility, such as poor sperm quality or low sperm count.
- Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) – a procedure involving a small biopsy of an embryo’s outer shell to test the embryo for genetic abnormalities and conditions.
- Assisted Hatching – the assisted release of the embryo from the thin membrane that surrounds it when it "hatches.”
- Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) – the process of using embryos (fertilized eggs) that have been frozen, thawed, and then placed in the uterus during the optimal time for implantation.
Advances in reproductive treatment technologies equate to more family planning options for couples, individuals, and the LGBTQ+ community. Chelsea Fertility NYC offers some of the most advanced technologies in reproductive treatment, including IVF, egg donation, and third-party reproduction. We combine the highest level of clinical expertise with a strong commitment to customer service. Contact us today to learn about our services and competitive financial packages.