• MySTV

IVF: Mother's pride 40 years after fertility breakthrough

Grace MacDonald was the first person in Scotland to give birth using the treatment.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) was the breakthrough that revolutionised fertility treatment around the world.

It has been 40 years since it was successful for the first time, with Louise Brown born in England nine months later.

The first Scottish IVF baby, Alistair MacDonald, was born on January 14, 1979, to a whirlwind of media interest.

The work of Dr Patrick Steptoe and Professor Robert Edwards was originally viewed as controversial and the first trials were carried out in almost complete secrecy.

Religious groups protested the work, saying the Royal Oldham Hospital in Greater Manchester was trying to play God.

Grace MacDonald, Alistair's mother, still remembers the media hounding her family when names of those involved in the programme were leaked to the press.

Mrs MacDonald says: "I was very surprised at the interest. I didn't really know until about November, when it was broken in the press, that I was one of the only IVF pregnancies in the country.

"A nurse at the hospital leaked the names to the press. There were people there from all over the world - television cameras coming to our house from America and Australia - it was all a bit surreal.

"But our neighbours were amazing and closed ranks and closed off the street and wouldn't let them in."

It was just by chance that Mrs MacDonald was involved in the programme in the first place.

She had been visiting friends in Stirling when she noticed an article about the treatment on her friend's coffee table.

Treatment: IVF is much more successful now.
Treatment: IVF is much more successful now. STV

"The way the article described the problems that women were having fitted me exactly", Mrs MacDonald recalls.

"The article was about the team making some kind of breakthrough at that time. It didn't go into a lot of detail so I wanted to take this further.

"My gynaecologist through in Glasgow at that time was a great doctor called David Heart and I did have appointments coming up with him for other problems. And David said 'Right, if you want to write Grace, I will as well'."

She adds: "And that's how it started. But it was quite a long time later that I heard back from Patrick Steptoe to come down. That was it, I was put on the programme in 1975."

Mrs MacDonald faced a lot of other problems in the lead up to falling pregnant.

'Being a part of that, I felt a great sense of achievement.'
Grace MacDonald

First, she had to undergo major surgery to remove both her fallopian tubes and an ovary.

The first round of IVF was administered in 1977, which failed. Success rates in those early years were just 12%.

A few months later, Mrs MacDonald was brought in for a second round, which was successful.

Now, more than six million babies have been born thanks to IVF and the treatment is hailed as being one of the biggest breakthroughs in fertility treatment.

Medical researchers are hopeful of making more advances in the fertility treatment so it can be more successful for people wanting to start a family.

The odds of falling pregnant through IVF now stand at around 40% but it is hoped this could be dramatically increase.

Now, 40 years on, Mrs MacDonald says she still feels honoured to have been a part of the revolutionary programme so many people depend on now.

"When he was born there was obviously total joy and elation", Mrs MacDonald says.

"But being a part of that, I also felt a great sense of achievement."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.