Since the first baby conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) was born in 1978, assisted reproductive medicine has evolved, globally, in many important ways.

Medical and technological advances have improved pregnancy rate per attempt – now at about 30 per cent on average – making the treatment less burdensome for patients, says Dr Pedro Barri, Honorary President of the Spanish Fertility Society.

Amongst key breakthroughs, he adds, are highly-purified synthetic compounds that are very effective at stimulating ovulation (the release of eggs for a woman’s ovaries) and techniques that allow to obtain pregnancies in cases of severe male infertility. Plus novel laboratory procedures allow to observe the embryo during the first days of life, and to conduct genetic tests, enabling accurate predictions as to whether it will result in a successful pregnancy and a health baby.

Medicine at the service of society

Dr Barri says reproductive medicine does not only address medical problems but also, and importantly, social issues.

There have been significant changes in society in the past 30 years. Because of work, financial or other issues many women nowadays start a family later in life, when their chances of getting pregnant are sharply reduced. Also, increasingly single women and same-sex couples plan to have a baby. Assisted reproductive medicine can meet these demands, by helping more people fulfil a fundamental basic human need – to be able to have children of one’s own to love and care for.