Austria's first test tube baby celebrates 40s

Milestone birthdays are something special for most people. For Zlatan Jovanovic they are a sure message in the media. Because he was the first baby to be conceived on August 5, 1982 using in vitro fertilization (IVF), i.e. in a test tube. Already in his 30s, Zlatan Jovanovic told the KURIER: “My round and half-round birthdays are always stressful. I’m curious what will happen when I’m 50,” he laughed at the time.

The AKH team around the pioneers of reproductive medicine, Wilfried Feichtinger and Peter Kemeter, was the sixth in the world to have succeeded in in vitro fertilization. Ten years ago, the late pioneer Wilfried Feichtinger said in a KURIER interview that in July 1978, when the very first IVF baby was born, everyone believed that the researchers Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe had cheated.

“At the time, I had an assistant position at the second women’s clinic in Vienna’s AKH and was always convinced that her statements were true. And then the KURIER changed my life: In December 1978 an article appeared, according to which Steptoe and Edwards in January 1979 at the Royal College in London to present all the data on their new technology for the first time. I then asked my boss at the time, Professor Hugo Husslein, if I could go there. He approved it,” Feichtinger recalled in 2012.

First test tube baby Louise Brown

With successful fertilization in the test tube, the physiologist Robert G. Edwards and the late gynecologist Patrick Steptoe ushered in a new era in the treatment of unwanted childlessness. Edwards started with his idea back in 1960, 18 years later on July 25, 1978, just before midnight the time had come. Louise Brown was born in Manchester (Great Britain). The now 44-year-old weighed 2,600 grams at birth and attracted attention from around the world.

Today, the Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger alone manages more than 20,000 IVF births a year, but none of the babies is as famous as Zlatan Jovanovic. “I found out a lot later through the media and was only really confronted with my origins in secondary school when, for example, my teacher came into the class one day with an article about me. At home, my birth was something completely natural, as was the IVF treatment not an issue,” said Zlatan Jovanovic.

Female fertility decreases after age 35

“Professor Feichtinger congratulated me on my birthday every year. His early death in June 2021 affected me greatly. He also always emphasized how proud he was of this successful treatment, which marked the beginning of his very successful career,” says Zlatan Jovanovic.

Michael Feichtinger is the son of Wilfried Feichtinger and today heads the Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger: He says that the demand for IVF is increasing and the couples are getting older.

“Today, more and more couples wish to have a baby later, because very often work has priority. Although we are constantly trying to increase education for young people to start family planning in good time, the opposite has happened in recent years. That The age of the patients who come to us is constantly increasing. The high number of 39-year-old women is particularly striking.”

This is probably due to the fact that the IVF fund only covers the costs of treatment up to the age of 40. “I would like to point out once again that fertility in women from the age of 35 decreases rapidly and, despite many and constantly improving treatment methods, the path to the desired baby becomes more and more difficult from a certain age,” says Michael Feichtinger.

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