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Test Tube Baby: What Does It Mean, Is the Process Different from IVF? Find all Answers to Your Questions

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Assisted Reproduction has seen transformations and refinements in IVF and test tube baby procedural techniques. In 1978 the World witnessed its first test-tube baby, Lousie Joy Brown, born in-vitro. Within a few months, the same year, India too registered its first test-tube baby, Kanupriya Aggrawal. Since then, laboratory methods and clinical practices in assisted reproduction have evolved into widely adopted, efficient, safe, accessible, and affordable medical procedures. 

Today, we have nearly 2 million IVF children born across the globe, and its continued advancements are more likely to enhance the hopes of millions of parent(s). But, how different is IVF from a test tube baby, and what exactly does the term “test-tube baby” mean? This article answers many such questions for you.

What exactly is a Test-Tube Baby?

Test tube baby is the term used for babies born from embryos developed in a test tube. However, the assisted reproduction procedure used for test-tube babies is In Vitro Fertilization or IVF. Hence, test-tube baby is a formerly used term for the scientific and commonly used name IVF.

Initially, the IVF procedural stages like fertilization of gametes and embryo development were performed in test tubes. And so, the name test tube babies came into existence. As the technique evolved, the fertilization of gametes was performed in small Petri dishes and culture mediums. And the name In-Vitro, where Vitro means happening outside the body in artificial conditions, began to gain popularity. 

The process of Test tube baby and IVF

A Test tube baby is the product of a successful human reproduction resulting from artificial reproduction methods such as IVF, where the egg and sperm cells are manipulated and fertilized in a laboratory setup. The fertilized egg developed by medical interventions is placed safely in the uterus of a woman aspiring to be a mother.

The steps involved in Test tube baby and IVF:

Superovulation for enhancing egg supply

Fertility drugs having hormones such as Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) are administered to the woman for nearly 10-12 days. FSH enables the development of more egg-nurturing follicles in the ovaries. The egg development and maturation are taken care of by LH. Ultrasound scans and regular blood assays can help monitor and regulate hormonal interventions. 

Picking up of Eggs 

This process involves sedation through anesthesia. The eggs are picked up directly from the nurturing ovarian follicles through a minor surgical procedure called follicular aspiration. A thin needle connected to the suction device is inserted through the vagina to aspire the eggs carefully. This process guided by ultrasound lasts around 15-20 minutes.

The Sperm Pick up

On the very day of egg pick up, the semen sample is collected either through normal ejaculation or through surgical or microsurgical aspiration techniques. The semen sample is washed and processed, and the sperm cells are removed through systematic extraction procedures. 

Fertilization of eggs

The aspired eggs are placed in a special media and cultured in an incubated environment. The sperm cells are mixed in either a test tube or a culture dish and left for fertilization to take place. After three days of fertilization, the embryo would have reached the 7-9 celled stage. And by day 5, the blastocyst embryo would be ready to be placed in the woman’s womb. 

Placement of Embryos

On day three or day 5 of fertilization, when the embryos have reached the 6-8 celled stage or blastocyst stage, more than one embryo is placed in the uterus. This procedure is done with the help of a thin tube or catheter entering the uterus through the vaginal opening. The embryo later implants itself into the thick uterine walls marking the commencement of a test tube baby, or IVF baby, to-be born soon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Conclusion

Before the IVF revolution hit India, test-tube baby was more like a pandemonium term, and the social stigma or criticism it faced was extreme. The IVF technique gained popularity later in the 21st century when the rising infertility was rising. Though, the term test tube baby and IVF baby means the same. IVF is the technology used. And so IVF baby sounds more scientifically correct, and the term IVF baby is accepted widely throughout the World. 

Pooja N Swamy (M.Sc Biomedical Sciences)
Pooja Holds Master's Degree in Biomedical Sciences from Vellore Institute of Technology. She believes in strong research and clear understanding over the subject. Always determined and focussed with a thirst to learn new things. Hardworking, flexible and grounded to align with the goals.

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