A little more than forty years ago, one of the first attempts at in-vitro fertilization ended when the chairman of the OB-GYN department at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian hospital took the test tube containing the growing embryos out of the incubator that was keeping them alive. The doctor who'd been growing them hadn't asked permission, and the chairman had plenty of reasons to step in—the equipment wasn't sterile, the hospital could be liable if the baby turned out wrong, the experiment was against federal regulations.
But within just a few years the first IVF baby was born, in England. She was a healthy baby:
She's now 36, with babies of her own. The first IVF baby in the U.S. followed a few years later, in 1981, and now about one percent of all babies born in the U.S.—more than 65,000 babies each year—are conceived using some form of assisted reproductive technology.
In the past 10 years or so, the use of these techniques has doubled, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says; it's become so popular that there's now an abundance of unused embryos in America's medical freezers. Part of the reason the use of IVF has grown so quickly in popularity is that a surprisingly large number of people—about one in eight, in the U.S—have some fertility issues.