Minimal side-effects have been reported in people born via IVF
Story by SIRIKUL BUNNAG
A child whose birth can be traced back to a laboratory dish 20 years ago says he feels nothing unusual about his origins and is now looking forward to life after university graduation.
A third-year engineering student at Chulalongkorn University, Paworawit Srisahaburi has for the first time unveiled himself to the public as the first child in Thailand and Asia who was born by fertilisation outside the human body.
He is strong and healthy. "I don't think my origin goes against nature," said Mr Paworawit, who turns 20 this year.
Mr Paworawit is a product of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), developed to help couples who have difficulties having children naturally. In Thailand, according to Chulalongkorn hospital, more than 700 children have been born under this method.
Doctors take an egg and a sperm from the parents and fertilise them in a laboratory. They then implant the embryo in the mother's womb which leads to a successful pregnancy if there are no errors.
"If they had no such technology, I would not have had a chance to see this world," Mr Paworawit said.
In Thai, he is called dek lod kaew, a test tube child, which shares the same meaning with the Latin word "in vitro," which means "in the glass."
Pramuan Werawutsen pioneered the IVF technique in Thailand in 1984, and helped bring Mr Paworawit into the world three years later.
"We managed, but with difficulty. Before his case, our team had tried but failed to make the method work," said Dr Pramuan, former head of Chulalongkorn University's department of obstetrics and gynaecology.
Mr Paworawit's mother was diagnosed with a disorder in her uterine tubes, which lead from the ovary to the womb. She could not conceive naturally where the sperm attaches to her egg.
After much trial and error, Dr Pramuan said Mr Paworawit's mother became pregnant.
"I was very excited," the doctor said. "I knew the embryo would develop into a child."
However, his hopes were nearly shattered when complications developed and the mother had to give birth two weeks in advance by means of a caesarean section.
"He [Paworawit] was just perfect. His internal and external organs were similar to those of ordinary children," Dr Pramuan recalled the moment when Mr Paworawit was born.
Since his birth in 1987, doctors have kept monitoring his development and have found no disorder.
Twenty years later, Mr Paworawit is studying for a bachelor degree in vehicle engineering at the top university in Thailand. His dream is to work in the car industry, he said.
"It makes me marvel when I think how these doctors gave me life," he said.
Yesterday he joined other dek lod kaew to attend a celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the faculty of medicine of Chulalongkorn University. It was their largest gathering in the country.
He said there was nothing weird about being born by IVF. Fertilisation outside the human body was becoming more common.
Dr Pramuan said parents were more inclined to rely on IVF treatment these days, because couples marry at older ages and their working and living environment intensifies stress. The two factors are hindrances to pregnancy.
This group of parents relies on reproductive technology, including IVF, if they want to have children.
However, he said, only 25 couples are admitted to Chulalongkorn hospital a month for IVF because doctors do not want to give the hospital an image of being a factory for making human beings.
Minimal side-effects have been reported in people born through IVF. Urinary disorders do occur in some male children, but no such problems have been reported in females.
IVF costs 80,000 to 100,000 baht per treatment.
Next, Mr Paworawit wants to set up a dek lod kaew network to support doctors' work and improve communication between so-called test tube babies and the public.