Key facts

  • First Epworth IVF baby conceived in early 1982
  • IVF services available at Epworth Freemasons and Epworth Eastern
It was really exciting to get the first pregnancy, because back in 1982 the success rate wasn’t all that good.

When Helen Grima found out she was pregnant, she sobbed. those emotions still bubble over, 40 years on.

Mrs Grima underwent years of treatment in the hope of conceiving a child.

“I had gone through operations for seven years, but my tubes and ovaries kept going bad,” Mrs Grima said.

In early 1982 she turned to IVF, which was new in Australia at that time. Initially, it didn’t appear the first round of IVF was successful.

“They didn’t think the fertilisation worked and they were going to send me home, so I was crying. Then, they told me the next morning my embryo was fertilised.“

“When I was told I was pregnant I had tears in my eyes, I couldn’t stop crying. I still get emotional thinking about it.”

Mrs Grima’s son Joseph (pictured) was the first baby born from IVF at Epworth, in October 1982.

The history-making IVF baby is passionate about medical advances.

“I work as an analytical scientist, looking at new vaccine technologies to immunise people against a lot of different diseases,” Mr Grima said.

“Mum struggled to get pregnant, so IVF changed her life.”

Fittingly, when the IVF unit opened in 1982, it was located where the Epworth Richmond paediatric ward is today.

IVF pioneer, Professor Gab Kovacs said in the first year at Epworth, doctors performed 407 egg collections, resulting in 52 pregnancies.

“It was really exciting to get the first pregnancy, because back in 1982 the success rate wasn’t all that good,” Prof Kovacs said.

“Up until I retired, the best part of the day was the afternoon when the pregnancy results came through. It was like being the couch of a football team and every pregnancy was like having a win. It was exciting.”

Prof Kovacs and Mrs Grima have forged a lifelong bond.

“I looked after Helen and delivered Joseph,” Prof Kovacs said.

“I have kept in touch with his mum over the last 40 years. For many years, she sent me a lotto ticket for Christmas.”

40 years on, Mrs Grima still can’t believe how lucky she is to be a mother.

“When he was born, I couldn’t get over how lucky we were to fall pregnant on the first go and we made history with Joseph.” Mrs Grima said.

IVF services are offered at Epworth Eastern and Epworth Freemasons.

Epworth IVF turns 40 - Epworth HealthCare


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