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World's first 'test tube baby' hits out at online abuse

Louise Brown was the world's first test-tube baby. Credit: PA

The world's first "test tube baby" says she is subjected to "cruel and ill-informed" comments from internet trolls.

Louise Brown says her family was bombarded with hate mail when she was born 40 years ago.

She says she hopes that families who undergo fertility treatments, such as mitochondrial replacement therapy for "three parent babies'' are not subjected to the same harassment her family received after pioneering IVF.

On 10 November 1977 Lesley Brown, who with husband John had been trying to conceive for nine years, fell pregnant after undergoing in-vitro fertilisation.

Nine months later, their daughter Louise was born - the first baby born following IVF.

Dr Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards talking to the world's press in 1978. Credit: PA

Six million babies have been born thanks to the technique, pioneered by the late British scientist Robert Edwards and his obstetrician colleague Patrick Steptoe.

Ms Brown, a clerk at a freight company, said: "People put cruel and ill-informed comments on the internet just about whenever there is a story about me. But I just ignore it."

Asked whether she thought families who use the "three-person baby" technique will get similar mail, she replied: "I hope they don't."

The world's first three-parent baby was born last year. Abrahim Hassan, whose Jordanian mother was treated by a US team in Mexico, was conceived from an egg containing DNA from his mother and father, and a tiny amount of mitochondrial DNA from a third person - a female donor.

Dr Robert Edwards holding baby Louise Joy Brown, watched by the midwife and Patrick Steptoe. Credit: PA

The aim was to prevent Abrahim inheriting defective mitochondria, rod-like batteries in cells, that could give him Leigh syndrome - a fatal nervous system disorder.

Earlier this year doctors at the Newcastle Fertility at Life clinic were awarded the first official licence to create a baby with three genetic parents. Ms Brown told the Press Association she would have tried IVF if she had needed to. Her sons - one of whom is named after the scientists who developed the technique - were conceived naturally.

The 39-year-old also hit out at rationing in the NHS.

"I am not an expert on IVF but I do believe it should be available to as many people as possible," she said.

The late Sir Robert Edwards with Louise Brown in 2013. Credit: PA

"Earlier this year I attended an event in the European Parliament in Brussels, which looked at infertility in nine countries across the EU.

"It showed there is a huge difference in what treatment is available to you and how much it costs, depending on where you live. The same is true across the UK. Infertility affects one in six couples and my view is that you should get the same treatment wherever you live."

Data released last week by the campaign group Fertility Fairness showed that the number of local health bodies offering the recommended three NHS-funded cycles of IVF has halved in the last five years and stands at 12%.

Mrs Brown said her parents, who have both since died, "just wanted to have a baby".

"Like millions of other couples with fertility problems they were prepared to do pretty much anything to have a baby," she added.

"They didn't really see themselves as pioneers at the time, but the older I get the more I appreciate what they went through to have me."