As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to recognize and honor the trailblazing female pioneers who made significant contributions to the field of reproductive medicine. Their groundbreaking work and discoveries transformed the world of surrogacy. It helped create countless new generations of families. Thanks to their unwavering commitment and extraordinary contributions, the field of reproductive medicine advanced significantly. As we reflect on their legacy, we continue to be inspired by their courage and passion for making the world a better place.
Though Drs. Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe gained worldwide acclaim as the pioneers of in vitro fertilization (IVF), it was Jean Purdy, a nurse and the first embryologist, who played a crucial role in the process. She observed that an embryo in a petri dish had divided into eight cells. Her discovery resulted in the conception and birth of Louise Joy Brown in 1978—the world’s first IVF baby! After the National Health Service declined to support IVF research, she was instrumental in locating and organizing the adaptation of Bourn Hall as the world’s first IVF clinic. The site was used to continue research after Louise Brown’s birth. Her significant role has been unrecognized for decades but Dr. Edwards’ advocacy to honor his female colleague brought her contributions to light.
When Lesley Brown, the mother of Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first in vitro baby, took part in this experimental procedure, it was a leap of faith. For nine years, she, a homemaker, and her husband John, a railroad worker, had been trying to conceive. However, they faced challenges due to blocked fallopian tubes. On July 25, 1978, in Oldham General Hospital, UK, the Browns welcomed their daughter, Louise. Her courage to forge on and leap into a then unknown procedure paved the way for millions of couples to have children via fertility treatment. Their second daughter, Natalie, was also conceived through IVF on the first try.
Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, an American medical physicist, developed the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique. This technique plays a vital role in the measurement of hormones in the bloodstream. It has led to major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of hormonal problems related to fertility.
As a resident at John Hopkins, Dr. Georgenna Seegar Jones discovered that the common pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), was produced by the placenta and not the pituitary gland as was previously believed. Her groundbreaking research changed the face of medicine. She is also credited to be the first to use progesterone to treat women with a history of miscarriages. This treatment allowed many of them to conceive and deliver. Together with her husband, fellow gynecologist Dr. Howard W. Jones, Jr., they brought IVF to the United States. On December 28, 1981, Elizabeth Carr, the first IVF baby in the U.S., was born at the Jones Institute.
Dr. Lucinda Veeck Gosden, the first embryologist at the Jones Institute, worked alongside Dr. Seegar Jones and Dr. Jones as part of the original IVF team who welcomed Elizabeth Carr.
The dedication and groundbreaking work of these female pioneers made an indelible mark on reproductive medicine. Through their tireless efforts, the successful births of Louise Joy Brown and Elizabeth Carr were made possible, and both remain influential infertility advocates to this day.
These women paved the way for future generations of women in healthcare. They inspired countless lives with their pioneering achievements, and their legacy continues to shape the field of reproductive medicine. We, at Growing Generations, honor and celebrate their contributions not only during Women’s History Month but also in every aspect of our lives.