Forty years after the first ever “test tube baby” Louise Joy Brown was born, 33 percent of American adults report using fertility treatment or knowing someone who used fertility treatment to have a baby, according to a new study.
Born as a result of in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, baby Louise paved the way for what some estimate could be seven million IVF babies born worldwide after her.
The IVF procedure involves creating fertilized embryos from eggs and sperm in the lab, then transferring the embryo into a woman's uterus, in hopes it will implant. "In Vitro" translates literally from Latin to "in glass," referring to the glass test tubes, now petri dishes, that doctors use when fertilizing the eggs.
"We have a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, a little bit of unknown," John Beloni, a senior endocrinologist at Genesis Fertility Clinic in Brooklyn, New York, told ABC News.
"The basic premise in all in-vitro fertilization cycles is that the eggs are removed from a woman's body, fertilized in vitro or in the petri dish and then the resulting embryos are at some point put back into the womb where the baby grows hopefully uneventfully," Dr. Richard Grazi, medical director at Genesis Ferity Clinic told ABC News.
IVF is one form of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "assisted reproductive technology," or ART.
Based on CDC reports of fertility-assisted births from the states, the Pew Research Center estimates that more than one million babies have been born in the U.S. using these procedures since 1996.
“”'It makes me proud to be the first and to know the great doctors, Bob and Patrick and mom and dad paved the way for lots of couples to be able to have families of their own,” Louise Joy Brown said at the Midwest Reproductive Symposium International in Chicago in June.
Generally, certain groups of people have been more likely to use fertility treatments.
Education level is one of the factors that could affect the likelihood, according to the Pew research study. About 43 percent of people with bachelor’s degrees reported having "some exposure" to fertility treatment. That number rose to 56 percent for those who had earned a post-graduate degree.
Race and money factored in, as well. Whites were most likely to have undergone fertility treatment, or to know someone who has, at 37 percent. Hispanics were next most likely at 26 percent, followed closely by blacks at 22 percent, according to the Pew study. In terms of income, families with incomes of $75,000 or more were more likely to have been exposed to fertility treatment.
Although women were a little more likely than men to have encountered fertility treatments in the Pew study -- 36 percent vs. 30 percent -- women and men have similar rates of infertility, Grazi said.
Infertility can also be due to "combined male and female factors," he added.
ART procedures to help women conceive can become very expensive. The average IVF cycle costs around $10,000 excluding medications, Grazi said.
Some insurance companies cover the cost of fertility treatments, while others do not.
Advocacy groups like Resolve are working to change state laws to require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments, but this is not currently mandated.
About two percent of births in the U.S. result from some form of ART procedure, according to Pew.
Brown said she finds the progress in these treatments, which began with her parents and doctors, is inspiring.
"I think it’s excellent that it gives people hope and they can still have a family," she said.
Anthony Castellano, Kelly Harold and Jessica Hopper contributed to this report.