Infertility historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [2] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sanjana Nethagani, M.B.B.S.[3]


Infertility has always been emotionally distressing and a cause of social stigma for the woman involved. Many cultures had their own explanations and beliefs around infertility.

Historical perspective

  • Historically, infertility was associated with social stigma and embarrassment for women particularly.
  • A lot of cultures encouraged having a second wife as to have offspring.[1]
  • The value of a woman was placed almost entirely on how fertile she was and how many children she could bear.
  • The discourse around infertility changed from a religion-centric view to a scientific view after the discovery of spermatozoa and other advancements in modern medicine.[2]

Landmark events in the development of treatment stratergies

  • Artificial insemination was first discovered by Lazzaro Spallanzani in Italy. His first experiment in artificial insemination was successfully performed on dogs.[3]
  • The first successful case of artificial insemination in humans was performed by Dr. John Hunter, a Scottish surgeon. [4]
  • The first "test tube baby" was born with the help of IVF successfully performed by Robert G. Edwards and Patrick Steptoe in 1978. [5]
  1. Fortunato L (2011). "Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: monogamy and polygyny". Hum Biol. 83 (1): 87–105. doi:10.3378/027.083.0106. PMID 21453006.
  2. Puerta Suárez J, du Plessis SS, Cardona Maya WD (2018). "Spermatozoa: A Historical Perspective". Int J Fertil Steril. 12 (3): 182–190. doi:10.22074/ijfs.2018.5316. PMC 6018180. PMID 29935062.
  3. JOHNSTON DR (1963). "The history of human infertilit". Fertil Steril. 14: 261–72. doi:10.1016/s0015-0282(16)34860-9. PMID 13957890.
  4. Ombelet W, Van Robays J (2015). "Artificial insemination history: hurdles and milestones". Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 7 (2): 137–43. PMC 4498171. PMID 26175891.
  5. Steptoe PC, Edwards RG (1978). "Birth after the reimplantation of a human embryo". Lancet. 2 (8085): 366. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(78)92957-4. PMID 79723.


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