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Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the US

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an artificially created hormone first synthesized in the late 1930s. Doctors widely prescribed DES first to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, and later as an emergency contraceptive pill and to treat breast cancer. However, in 1971, physicians showed a link between DES and vaginal cancer during puberty in the children of women who had taken DES while pregnant. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Visualize Fetal Abnormalities

Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technique to create a three-dimensional image of a fetus. Doctors often use MRIs to image a fetuses after an ultrasound has detected an, or has been inconclusive about an, abnormality. In 1983 researchers in Scotland first used MRI to visualize a fetus. MRIs showed a greater level of fetal detail than ultrasound images, and researchers recognized the relevance of this technique as a means to gather information about fetal development and growth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Technologies, Reproduction

The Aschheim-Zondek Test for Pregnancy

Throughout history many different methods have been devised for the early detection of pregnancy. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, inspection of the urine has been a popular place to start. However, it was not until the discovery of hormones in the early twentieth century that the development of truly reliable pregnancy tests occurred. Prior to 1978, when the first home pregnancy tests became available in the United States, pregnancy testing was done in hospital laboratories using various methods, one of them being the Aschheim-Zondek, or A-Z test.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Thesis: How Purported Scientific Failures Have Led to Advancements in IVF

This thesis shows us the history of how some of the first attempts at IVF in humans using various options such as donated egg cells and cryopreserved embryos, often ended in early miscarriages. At that time, most members of the scientific community and general public responded to those trials by regarding them as insignificant. In 1998, the success rate of women under the age of 38 having children with the use of IVF was 22.1%. Over time, scientists began to acknowledge those published findings that detailed various “failed” human IVF experiments.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications, Technologies, Experiments, Reproduction, Outreach

Edwin Carlyle (Carl) Wood (1929–2011)

Edwin Carlyle Wood, also known as Carl Wood, was a physician who helped develop in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. From 1964 to 1992, Wood worked as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was one of the first in the world to lead a team of physicians to establish IVF as a proven treatment for infertility. IVF refers to a medical procedure in which scientists inseminate an egg cell with a sperm cell outside of the body, such as in a glass dish in a clinical setting.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction

Vaginal Speculum (after 1800)

A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test for Gestational Diabetes

In the twentieth century, researchers developed the oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT, as a method to diagnose different types of diabetes, a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high. During the test, a healthcare provider measures a person’s blood sugar levels before and after the person consumes a predetermined amount of glucose solution. While not exclusively used for pregnant women, an OGTT may test for gestational diabetes which, according to the International Diabetes Federation, affected one in six pregnancies worldwide in 2019.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction, Experiments

The Shettles Method of Sex Selection

In the 1960s in the United States Landrum B. Shettles developed the Shettles method, which is a procedure for couples to use prior to and during an intercourse to increase their chances of conceiving a fetus of their desired sex. Shettles, a physician, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, found a difference in the size and shape of male sperm cells that he correlated with the different sex chromosomes they carry.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Recombinant Gonadotropins Used in Fertility Treatments

First manufactured in 1988 by Serono laboratories, recombinant gonadotropins are synthetic hormones that can stimulate egg production in women for use in fertility treatments. Recombinant gonadotropins are artificially created using recombinant DNA technology, a technology that joins together DNA from different organisms. In vertebrates, naturally-occurring gonadotropins regulate the growth and function of the gonads, known as testes in males and ovaries in females.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction