Children 'awestruck' as they return to IVF lab to discover how their were conceived

WATCH: ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw joins a tour of an IVF clinic in Brighton

A leading fertility clinic in Sussex is inviting the children of former patients to return to their laboratory, to see for themselves how they were conceived.

It’s thought the IVF educational programme at the Agora Clinic, in Brighton, is the first of its kind in the country.

The so-called ‘discovery days’ allow the young visitors to meet the doctors and scientists who helped create them and get a behind-the-scenes look at the processes involved.

13-year-old Alby Johnson-Hetherington, from Shoreham-by-Sea, was one of the first children to be invited back and was able to watch the microscopic fertilisation process in action.

Speaking to ITV News Meridian, during the tour, Alby said: “It's just incredible to see first-hand how it's all made. I was in awe, it was quite shocking to see… that’s an actual life starting to grow.”

Alby was born in 2009 after his mother underwent seven cycles of IVF, an emotional journey chronicled in a family scrapbook.

Former patients’ children can see inside the IVF laboratory and the cryogenic storage room during the tours.

Alby's mother, Amanda Hetherington, said she will “never forget” attending the clinic at its former Hove site “on a snowy day in February” for the procedure.

Amanda added: “For Alby now to come and see where his beginnings were, I just think it's really important and it's really important to be open because why should it be a secret?”

The centre is the largest provider of NHS-funded fertility care in Sussex, with more than 4,000 babies born since it opened 16 years ago.

Growing demand led to a move into new premises, with capacity to deliver 2,000 cycles of IVF a year. It is hoped the discovery days will encourage open conversations about the process amongst the next generation.

Founder and medical director of the Agora Clinic, Dr Carole Gilling-Smith, said: “I think this is something that we need to be doing as clinicians, we need to be talking about IVF to the children very much in the same way that we talk about how natural conception happens.”

The Agora Clinic recently moved from Hove to larger facilities in Brighton.

All the children attending are given a certificate of their visit and a personalised video of how IVF works.

During in vitro fertilisation (IVF), an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, according to the NHS website. The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman's womb to grow and develop.

NICE fertility guidelines make recommendations about who should have access to IVF treatment on the NHS, with local integrated care boards having the final say on eligability.

In Sussex, that includes funding for up to three cycles of IVF in women under the age of 40, as well as egg donation for those who have had a premature menopause and donor sperm treatment for male infertility, same sex couples and single women.