The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one in every eight couples struggles to conceive. And over the centuries – since the dawn of time, really – there have been women and couples who couldn’t have children – who have fought tirelessly with themselves and their infertility with daily injections, drugs, hormones, countless blood tests, surgeries and other procedures.

Incredibly, infertility was once considered a divine intervention – a judgment or trial from God – rather than a medical matter. But at the turn of the 19th century, science started to gain ground and doctors began to explore the possibilities of infertility interventions.

The majority of infertility discoveries and interventions were made in the last 250 years, existing – at least in its most recognizable, modern-day form – since the 18th century.

So in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, below is a timeline of some the most extraordinary breakthroughs in assisted reproduction of the last couple centuries:

  • The 1700s: A child conceived through artificial insemination is born.
  • The 1800s: The first U.S. sperm donor conceives a child.
  • The 1930s:
    • The idea of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is proposed in the New England Journal of Medicine.
    • Sperm is frozen successfully for the first time.
  • The 1950s: Four children are born from frozen sperm.
  • The 1970s:
    • A U.S. scientist successfully fertilizes an egg in vitro.
    • A Florida couple becomes the first to attempt – albeit unsuccessfully – in vitro fertilization in the U.S.
    • The first ‘test-tube baby’ is born in England.
  • The 1980s:
    • The first IVF baby is conceived in the U.S.
    • The world’s first baby conceived from human embryos is born.
    • The world’s first baby conceived from a donated egg is born in Australia.
    • Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT), the procedure that places unfertilized eggs and sperm into the woman’s Fallopian tube, is introduced and produces its first successful pregnancies.
  • The 1990s:
    • A 42-year-old woman becomes the gestational surrogate for her daughter with an egg donated by her daughter and sperm donated by her daughter’s husband.
    • A new male infertility treatment, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), is introduced to inject one sperm into an egg.
    • A postmenopausal woman in Italy uses donated eggs and her husband’s sperm to give birth at the age of 62.
    • The first U.S. woman gives birth to a baby conceived from a frozen egg.
    • Scientists are able to select a baby’s sex by using a technique that separates X and Y chromosome sperm.
  • The 2000s: The first ‘designer baby’ was conceived to save his sister suffering from a fatal genetic bone marrow disorder by transfusing cells from his umbilical cord.

The journey has been an extraordinarily remarkable one and still, doctors and researchers continue to push the boundaries of fertility treatments. The mission was – and remains – the same: Give everyone who hopes to one day become a parent the opportunity to realize those dreams.

At UNC Fertility, we want to help you have the family you’ve always wanted. Call us today at (919) 908-0000 to let us help start you on the path to the family of your dreams.