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“Transfer of a Human Zygote” (1973), by David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood
On 29 September 1973, researchers David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood published “Transfer of a Human Zygote,” in The Lancet. In the article, the authors describe an experiment that resulted in one of the first pregnancies established via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Prior to the article’s publication in 1973, there was no published evidence demonstrating whether IVF treatment would work in humans, although evidence existed showing that IVF worked in other mammals for breeding purposes.
Subject: Publications, Processes
Hormone Releasing Intrauterine Devices
Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T.
De Formato Foetu (c. 1600), by Girolamo Fabrici
The embryological treatise De formato foetu (The Formed Fetus) was written by anatomist and embryologist Girolamo Fabrici. There is no conclusive evidence regarding the first date of publication and what is listed on many copies ranges from 1600-1620, with speculation that the dates were altered by hand. Most forms of the book are dated 1600 and were issued by Franciscus Bolzetta who sold many copies in Venice and whose name appears on the engraved title-page. There is also verification of the book being printed in Padua by Laurentius Pasquatus in 1604.
“Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology,” (1901) by William Henry Walling
In 1901, physician William Henry Walling published the article, Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology, in the January issue of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Journal. Walling was a practicing gynecologist who studied electro-therapeutics, or the use of electricity in medicine for the treatment of disease, which was an emerging topic during the late 1800s. Walling stated that proper administration of electrical current to a woman’s vagina, uterus, bladder, or rectum could be therapeutic for gynecological diseases.
Subject: Reproduction, Theories, Publications
Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive first introduced by Howard Tatum and Jamie Zipper in 1967. Health care providers place an IUD inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Copper IUDs are typically made of T-shaped plastic with some portion covered with exposed copper. Prior to the invention of the first IUDs, women had few long-term options for safe and reliable birth control. Those options mostly consisted of barrier methods and the oral birth control pill, which were only effective if used correctly and consistently.
Treatment of Pelvic Organ Prolapse in Women
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition in women that causes the pelvic organs to descend, often resulting from a weakened pelvic floor. Pelvic organs supported by the pelvic floor, such as the bladder, bowel, or uterus, can descend to such a degree that they project out from a woman’s body typically via the vagina. Pelvic floor stress or trauma, like vaginal childbirth, can cause pelvic organ prolapse. Women with pelvic organ prolapse also often experience other conditions, such as incontinence or the involuntary leakage of urine or fecal matter.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Processes
“Fetal Surgery” (1996), by Michael R. Harrison
In 1996, Michael R. Harrison published “Fetal Surgery” in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the article, Harrison describes the importance of fetal surgery and the techniques used to correct defects in fetuses. As a fetus develops in the uterus, it can develop abnormalities that may become debilitating or fatal. Harrison discusses cases that show how physicians can use fetal surgery to repair such abnormalities, including obstructions in the heart or urinary tract, or organs or muscles whose malformations impair function.
Subject: Reproduction, Publications
William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)
William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.
“The Infectious Origins of Stillbirth” (2003) by Robert L. Goldenberg and Cortney Thompson
In September 2003, Robert L. Goldenberg and Cortney Thompson published the article “The Infectious Origins of Stillbirth” in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the article, the authors conducted a literature review of articles from the US National Library of Medicine database to review the relationship between perinatal infections, which are infections around the time of birth, and the occurrence of stillbirth. Stillbirth is the death of a fetus in the uterus after at least twenty weeks of pregnancy.
Subject: Reproduction, Publications
Vegas Baby (2016)
In 2016, Runaway Films released the documentary Vegas Baby. The film, directed by Amanda Micheli, follows three women who struggle with infertility problems as they undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF treatment, to become pregnant. In IVF treatment, a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of the woman’s body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus. The three women in the film enter the I Believe contest hosted by the Sher Institute of Reproductive Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Baby Makers (2012)
In 2012, the production company Waddell Media Production released the documentary The Baby Makers. The four-part series, directed and produced by Edel O’Mahony, follows multiple couples in Northern Ireland struggling with infertility problems as they utilize different treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, egg donation, and egg freezing. IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of her body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus.
Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit (2015), by the Public Broadcasting Service and Trailblazer Studios
In 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, released a three-part documentary series, Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit, hereafter Twice Born, that follows several pregnant women and their experiences with fetal surgery. Trailblazer Studios produced the film, which predominantly features two women, although it includes the stories of many women. The two main women are pregnant with fetuses diagnosed with physical deformities. One woman’s fetus is diagnosed with spina bifida, an incomplete closure of the fetus’s spinal column.
In humans, multi-fetal pregnancy occurs when a mother carries more than one fetus during the pregnancy. The most common multi-fetal pregnancy is twins, but mothers have given birth to up to eight children (octuplets) from a single pregnancy. Multiple fetusus can result from the release of multiple eggs or multiple ovulations, the splitting of a single fertilized egg, and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) which involves the insertion of many fertilized eggs into the mother's uterus.
Subject: Processes, Reproduction
Jesse Bennett (1769–1842)
Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived.
“Pelvic Organ Prolapse” (2007), by John E. Jelovsek, Christopher Maher, and Matthew D. Barber
In 2007, physicians John Jelovsek, Christopher Maher, and Matthew Barber published, “Pelvic Organ Prolapse,” in The Lancet. In their article, Jelovsek and colleagues provided an overview of pelvic organ prolapse in women and described the epidemiology, risk factors, symptoms, and management of the condition. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when a woman’s pelvic floor is weakened or damaged from stress or trauma such as vaginal childbirth.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch
Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.
Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders
Walter Schiller (1887–1960)
Walter Schiller studied the causes of diseases in the US and Austria in the early twentieth century and in 1928, invented the Schiller test, or a way to diagnose early cervical cancer in women. Cervical cancer is the uncontrollable division of cells in the cervix, or lower part of the uterus. While living in Austria until his emigration to escape the Nazis in 1937, Schiller concluded that there was a form of cervical cancer, later named carcinoma in situ, that physicians could detect earlier than when tumors start to appear.
Horatio Robinson Storer (1830–1922)
Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.
Subject: People, Reproduction, Religion
Edgar Allen and Edward A. Doisy's Extraction of Estrogen from Ovarian Follicles, (1923)
In the early 1920s, researchers Edgar Allen and Edward Adelbert Doisy conducted an experiment that demonstrated that ovarian follicles, which produce eggs in mammals, also contain and produce what they called the primary ovarian hormone, later renamed estrogen. In their experiment, Doisy and Allen extracted estrogen from the ovarian follicles of hogs and proved that they had isolated estrogen by using a measurement later renamed the Allen-Doisy test.
"Conservatism in Obstetrics" (1916), by Edwin B. Cragin
In 1916 Edwin B. Cragin in the United States published Conservatism in Obstetrics in which he discussed medical practices and techniques to preserve the vitality of pregnant women and their fetuses. Cragin argued that women who give birth via cesarean section, the surgical act of making an incision through both the abdomen and uterus to remove the fetus from a pregnant woman's womb, must rely on that method for future births. That claim was later coined the Dictum of Cragin.
Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)
Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomy during the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesalius thoroughly dissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notes and drawings of his research. Compiling his research, Vesalius published an anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books). The Fabrica included illustrations of dissected men, women, and uteruses with intact fetuses.
“Levator Trauma is Associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse” (2008), by Hans P. Dietz and Judy M. Simpson
Hans Peter Dietz and Judy Simpson published, “Levator Trauma is Associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse,” in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2008. In their article, Dietz and Simpson estimated the risk of pelvic organ prolapse in women who attained injuries to the pelvic levator muscles. The levator muscles, also known as the levator ani, are a major muscle group that comprise the pelvic floor. Along with other muscles, the pelvic floor supports organs in a woman’s pelvis, such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
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.
Subject: Technologies, Technologies, Reproduction
Leonard Colebrook’s Use of Sulfonamides as a Treatment for Puerperal Fever (1935–1937)
Between 1935 and 1937, Leonard Colebrook showed that sulfonamides, a class of antibacterial drugs, worked as an effective treatment for puerperal fever. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterus of women after giving birth. At the time of Colebrook’s study, puerperal fever remained a common disease due to both the lack of hygienic practices in hospitals and a treatment for the disease. After successfully using Prontosil, a sulfanilamide, to cure a patient who was going to die from puerperal fever, Colebrook began experiments with the drug.
Gail Roberta Martin (1944– )
In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Gail Roberta Martin specialized in biochemistry and embryology, more specifically cellular communication and the development of organs. In 1981, she named any cell taken from inside a human embryo at the blastocyst stage an “embryonic stem cell”. During development, an embryo goes through the blastocyst stage just before it implants in the uterus. Embryonic stem cells are useful for experiments because they are self-renewing and able to develop into almost any cell type in the body.