On March 7, 2016, India’s medical world rejoiced as Mumbai’s first test tube baby, now 30 years old, gave birth to her own naturally conceived baby boy. Harsha Chawda and her husband Divyapal Shah’s excitement as parents was shared by Dr. Indira Hinduja and Dr. Kusum Zaveri, the two pioneering gynaecologists who delivered IVF-conceived Harsha in 1986. The same doctor duo delivered Harsha’s baby, weighing 3.1 kilograms, by cesarean section at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital.
The delivery is considered to be important as it quells the fear that many couples have about whether IVF babies can lead normal lives and conceive naturally. As Dr. Hinduja confirms in Hindustan Times, “Harsha’s baby is a proof that babies born through IVF are as normal as any other child.”
Harsha, an accountant by profession, was the doctor duo’s first successful embryo transfer in 1985, after testing the IVF method on animals for a year.
Her mother, Maniben, could not conceive due to damaged fallopian tubes, and was all up for the idea of IVF at a time when there was low awareness about the procedure and its success rates. But it has picked up at a great pace since then. “We have delivered more than 15,000 test tube babies since that day,” said Dr Hinduja.
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Harsha is the country’s second test tube baby. The first, Kanupriya Agarwal, nicknamed Durga, was delivered successfully in 1978 by Dr Subhash Mukhopadyay in Kolkata. Dr Mukhopadyay was the second physician in the world to have worked on the IVF method, but this success was overshadowed by moral and ethical controversies. He got his recognition about eight years later, but he and the baby’s family faced social ostracisation in West Bengal. The birth of Harsha was the first step towards an accepting society.