In 1983, the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) was born in the United States. We can be proud that this event occurred in Virginia, at the Jones Institute in Norfolk. It is an interesting anecdote that Dr. Howard Jones, the namesake of the Institute, was on the faculty at Johns Hopkins when the first IVF baby was born in England in 1979. However, a mandatory-retirement-age policy forced him to move from Baltimore to Norfolk to pursue IVF. Here in Charlottesville, Dr. Bruce Bateman established one of the earlier programs in the Southeast, in 1986, at the University of Virginia. There are now more than 450 IVF programs in the United States, with approximately 125,000 IVF treatment cycles completed annually.
The world marveled at the miraculous technology many referred to as "test-tube babies," but, in reality, at the beginning the success of IVF was quite low. During the mid-1980s, the national in vitro fertilization pregnancy success rate was less than 10 percent per attempt. Few couples undertook IVF because the treatment was expensive and the chance of success was discouragingly low. During the last 20 years, however, dramatic progress has been made in the clinical and laboratory treatment of couples requiring IVF. Numerous advances have also widened the scope of couples who can benefit from IVF. This has led to a paradigm shift in how couples and their doctors consider infertility-treatment options. Pregnancy rates for all comers to IVF at Martha Jefferson now exceed 50 percent. For this reason IVF is a first-line therapy for numerous infertility problems, such as Fallopian tube obstruction, severe endometriosis, and low sperm counts.