History of IVF in Armenia

In-vitro fertilization ("IVF") and its modifications,  including ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), cryopreservation of embryos, donor programs, surrogacy, and also artificial insemination by spouse’s ("AIH") or donor’s ("AID") sperm relates to methods of auxiliary reproductive technologies ("ART"). This big group of methods is applied when pregnancy through the natural way is either absolutely impossible or chances of it happening are much smaller than in case of use of ART. 

The history of development of IVF starts in the middle of the 20th century. In 1978, in England, a girl named Louise Brown was born. She was the first child from a test tube. In spite of the fact that the history of development of IVF goes back only 30 years, today there are over 3 million children in the world conceived in test tubes. 

In the USSR, the first child, conceived through this method, was born in 1986 in Moscow, in the Center of Maternal and Child Health Protection, in a laboratory under guidance of B.V. Leonov and V.I. Kulakov. 
The history of development of in vitro fertilization in Armenia starts in 1996, when a group of French doctors from the Institute of Reproductive Medicine of Marseilles (IMR) visited Armenia. The visit was organized with the assistance of the Director of the National Institute of Health named after S.H. Avdalbekyan, member of the RA National Academy of Sciences, Professor G.A. Nikoghosyan and the Armenian-French society "Azatagrutyun" under the direction of Andranik Hakobyan. The French side was represented by the leading experts in the field: Dr. Jean Pierre Franquebalm (obstetrician-gynecologist), Dr. Phillip Terriu (embryologist) and Jean Louis Spach. Armenia was represented by a group of doctors under the direction of Professor Georgi Okoev.  Embryological aspects of the work were performed by the Head of the Diagnostic Laboratory K.H. Jinanyan. 

In 1998 and 2005, a group of Armenian doctors from our Center passed training and worked on exchange of experience in France at the Institute of Reproductive Medicine (Marseilles), under the auspices of the program of development of in vitro fertilization in Armenia. 

From 2001 to 2003, colleagues from France organized and carried out trainings for doctors of the RCMCHP in Yerevan. Doctors of the Center were learning the new methods and technologies of auxiliary reproduction technology from leading experts of the Institute of Reproductive Medicine.

This hard work was rewarded by the birth of the first child in the history of Armenian medicine conceived through in vitro fertilization within the walls of our Center. On February 5, 2004, triplets were born through cesarean section operation: a girl with weight of 2250 grams and height of 45 centimeters; a boy with weight of 2550 grams and height of 47 centimeters, and a girl with weight of 1890 grams and height 43 centimeters. 

The introduction and development of IVF at the Center continued to develop, and through years of professional work new versions of treatment became available. Subsequent stage of the development of IVF technique was the intracitoplazmic sperm injection (ICSI). The first pregnancy through the method of ICSI was achieved in 2006 and on February 8, 2007, a boy was born, with weight of 3530 grams and height of 54 centimeters. 

Parallel to IVF, the methods of treatment of male sterility were developed for cases of oligozoospermia, asthenozoospermia and azoospermia. Techniques of reception of sperm by epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA) and testicular sperm extraction (TESЕ) were introduced. On April 29, 2007, the first delivery after TESЕ took place. Twins were born: a boy with weight of 1350 grams and height of 40 centimeters and a girl with weight of 1160 grams and height of 39 centimeters.

Since 2006, we have been actively offering to our patients at the Center a reliable method of cryoconservation (freezing) of embryos, and already in 2007 we started to have childbirths after transfer of frozen embryos into uterine cavity. 

Pursuant to Armenian legislation of 2002, "Reproductive Health and Reproductive Human Rights", a new direction of IVF method was developed at the RCMCHP: the program of "Surrogate motherhood" (Surrogacy). In 2006, surrogate mother cared impregnated oocytes of the biological mother, who suffered from the absence of uterus because of the congenital developmental anomaly of reproductive system (Mayer-Kuster-Rokitansky syndrome), and gave birth to twins: both girls with weight of 3130 grams and 3380 grams and height of 50 centimeters each.

Also, the method of donor oocyte is successfully applied in our Center. If for some reasons (age, premature exhaustion of ovary, surgical castration) a woman cannot develop an oocyte, a donor’s oocyte, impregnated by sperm of spouse, is transferred. 

Today, RCMCHP is the only center in Armenia, where through IVF, the most advanced and effective technique of treatment of sterility, over 400 children were born. 

Our Center performs treatment of different kinds of infertility and all kinds of reproductive technologies are successfully applied. Since the first days, experts of the Center have achieved notable results, and efficiency in approach of pregnancy by IVF method has reached to 35-40%. This success is not accidental; it is the result of many years of hard work of the Center’s employees.  

The Center is equipped with the most advanced equipment, and the leading experts in the field of infertility treatment and auxiliary reproduction work here. The main goal of our team is, has been, and will always be to increase the efficiency and availability of IVF and to grant our patients the joy of parenthood.

These important achievements by our doctors were duly welcomed; in May of 2008, a group of our doctors, led by Professor Okoev, received a presidential award from the President of the Republic of Armenia for the achievements in sphere of auxiliary reproductive technologies.