Louise Brown Diary: First Among Equals

This month I travelled to the swish, stylish city of Barcelona in Spain, which also boasts an incredible clinic where 20,000 babies have been born as a result of reproductive technology.

It was there I met Victoria Anna Perea, the first IVF person born in Spain – some six years after I led the world. It is always interesting meeting someone who was also a “first” as they have often had the media spotlight on them the same as myself.

Of course our meeting at the Salud de la Mujer Dexeus attracted media attention with six television stations, magazines, radio stations and newspapers all there to capture the moment that the first in the world met the first in Spain!

After the scrum of camera people had left then we were also mobbed by the doctors, embryologists and scientists who work at the hospital. Among them was Pedro Barri, who in 1984 carried out the IVF treatment that resulted in Victoria Anna’s birth.

I really feel that people in the IVF community are like a family. They all know the struggles and heartache that women go through before they decide on IVF treatment and the real difference that a successful IVF treatment can bring.

It made me reflect, once again, on something that the pioneer Patrick Steptoe did when I was born.

He suggested the middle name “Joy” to my mum, because he said that my birth would help to bring joy to so many people around the world. Seeing the result of IVF around the world makes me realise he was right.

Myself and Victoria Anna might be “firsts” but really there is no difference between us and every other baby born to loving parents – and specially to a woman, who may have been striving to have her own child for many years.

The private Dexeus centre is exclusively dedicated to women’s health

Their centre deals with women at various stages of their life from childhood – when some children start their periods very young – through adolescence, adulthood, maternity, menopause and active ageing.

It is interesting to see how IVF plays a major part in that journey. I was able to tell the doctors there how my mother really started on her IVF journey after going to the doctor suffering from depression. It was while being questioned about depression that the doctor realised it was her 10 years of inability to have a child of her own that had affected her mental health.

One doctor in a bid to give her some hope referred her to Steptoe and Edwards and the rest is now history.

The holistic approach in Spain, where every aspect of women’s health is considered at a specialist hospital, was impressive and I believe that gives the best chance of a solution to women’s health issues.

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