Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
The medical term used to describe "absence of periods" is amenorrhea. Women normally do not menstruate before puberty, during pregnancy, and after menopause. If a woman does not get her period when she normally should, it may be the symptom of a treatable medical condition.
There are two types of amenorrhea: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when a young woman has not had her first period by the age of 16. Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who has had normal menstrual...