Alastair MacDonald - Scotland’s first test tube baby

Picture: Alastair MacDonald and Bob Edwards in 1981
Picture: Alastair MacDonald and Bob Edwards in 1981
Have your say

ON this day in 1979, Alastair MacDonald, Scotland’s first test-tube baby was born.

Weighing in at five pounds 12 ounces, his birth made history around the world.

Picture: Alastair MacDonald.

Picture: Alastair MacDonald.

Alastair was born after his mother, Grace Montgomery, received the first round of the pioneering medical treatment IVF which has now helped conceive over five million babies.

The embryo was created by Professor Robert Edwards with surgical procedures being performed by Dr Patrick Steptoe, or ‘Uncle Patrick’ as Alastair knew him.

The men were also behind the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby born on 25 July 1978.

After being told she was infertile in 1972, Grace decided to take part in Dr Steptoe and Dr Edwards’ medical trials at Oldham General Hospital.

Picture: Grace MacDonald, 31 and Alastair MacDonald aged 3 weeks in 1979

Picture: Grace MacDonald, 31 and Alastair MacDonald aged 3 weeks in 1979

She started the treatment programme in 1975 but it wasn’t until 1978, on the second cycle of treatment, that one egg was successfully fertilised.

Grace stayed in Oldham for two months during her treatment and told her family she was receiving special treatment for cancer because the trial was perceived as controversial at the time.

It wasn’t until after the birth of Louise Brown that she realised her son would be the second test tube baby to be born.

Alastair was kept out of the spotlight and, as a result, didn’t know of how he came to be until he was nine years old and saw a report on the death of Dr Steptoe which featured images of “Uncle Bob” Edwards.

READ MORE: Scottish IVF study compares fresh and frozen embryos in UK-first trial

This year, Alastair will be celebrating his 36th birthday.

IVF is now commonplace throughout the world with research constantly being undertaken.

This month will see a landmark IVF study compare births from ‘fresh’ embryos compared to that of frozen embryos. The trial will measure which method produces the greater number of healthy babies, alongside considering the health of the mother and costs to the NHS for both the procedure and later impact of caring for premature babies.

More than 1,000 couples will be recruited for the trial, which is the first of its kind to ever be run in the UK and could affect the future of every aspect of IVF.