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Video Clip Synopsis:
An egg is collected from a woman’s ovary and placed in a test tube to be fertilised by her husband’s sperm. Once the embryo is growing normally it is placed back in the uterus.

1min 11sec

Test Tube Babies is an excerpt from the film Medical and Scientific (12 mins), an episode of the series Australia in the 80s (6 x 12 mins), produced in 1982.

Medical and Scientific: A look at Australia’s contribution to science and medical technology and research in the 1980s including innovations in radio astronomy, solar energy and tools and techniques for medical diagnosis, microsurgery and IVF.

Australia in the 80s: This series gives a kaleidoscopic impression of the vivid variety and vigor of a nation still developing. As absorbing as the screen image, is the fact-filled commentary. Together they produce a lively film to tell the world about Australia in the 80s.

Australia in the 80s was produced by Motion Pictures Associates for Film Australia.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: Science
Year: 11-12
Strand: Biology, human biology, issues
Theme: Science Work

Key Concepts

Human reproduction and reproductive technology, issues in reproductive technology

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:No examples available
NSW:No examples available
NT:Biology: Stage 1 physiology
Qld:Biology Body systems
SA:Biology:Stage 1 physiology
Tas:Life sciences: reproduction and related issues
Vic:Biology: Unit 2 Reproduction and Development
WA:Human BiologyYear 11 Continuity of the Human species

Context / Background Information

Australians have been at the forefront of advances in many areas of medical technology. One of these areas is in vitro fertilisation (IVF). IVF improves the fertility of couples who are unable able to get pregnant in the normal way. IVF increases the chance of fertilsation of the woman's egg by taking it out of her body and placing it in a test tube, where the husband's sperm is added. Once fertilisation has taken place, the embryo is placed into the woman's uterus with the hope that a normal pregnancy can occur.

The first step in the IVF procedure involves using fertility drugs to force the woman's body to produce many eggs at ovulation. These are harvested and more than one egg becomes fertilised. A number of eggs are implanted and often multiple births occur. Alternatively, the unused embryos can be stored.

IVF technology also paved the way for surrogacy. Women who do not have a functioning uterus can have their eggs fertilised and implanted into another woman's uterus.

This clip, which was filmed in 1982, shows one of the early IVF pioneers, Carl Wood. At this time, the success rate of IVF was fairly low, with only 20% of IVF procedures resulting in a successful birth.

Discussion Pointers

Discuss what students know about reasons for infertility. Discuss infertility from the point of view of male and female anatomy and physiology.

Discuss the issues facing infertile couples. Why do couples want children? Is there any social stigma attached to couples who can’t have children? What other options are there for infertile couples?

Discuss the reproductive issues that have arisen since the introduction of IVF, such as storing frozen embryos, surrogacy and cloning.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Before watching the film students could brainstorm all that they know about IVF and surrogacy.
  2. Look up the meanings of the following words: in vitro, in vivo, embryo, sperm, donor sperm, egg, donor egg, ovulation, surrogate, gestation.
  3. Surrogacy is an issue that has arisen since the IVF program has become more successful. A surrogate mother is someone who gestates and gives birth to a child for another person and then gives custody of the child to the other person or couple
  4. Use the internet to find out more about surrogacy and answer the following:
    • What is the current infertility rate in Australia?
    • What are the two different types of surrogacy?
    • List as many different circumstances as you can think of, where people might want to use a surrogate mother.
    • Find out more about the famous Kirkman surrogacy case in Victoria in 1988.
    • What are the laws surrounding surrogacy in your state? Are they the same in all states of Australia?
    • What are the arguments for and against surrogacy?
    • What is your opinion?

Modules That Use This Clip

English Year 9-10, Science Year 9-10, Science Year 11-12