Knowle West “test-tube baby” Louise releases life story

Interview by Sue Mackinnon

Louise with the "test tube" she was conceived in. Photo by Si Barber.
Louise with the “test tube” she was conceived in. Photo by Si Barber.

The birth of Louise Brown in July 1978 – the world’s first “test-tube baby” – has been hailed as one of the most significant events in the 20th century.

It was the start of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) that revolutionised fertility treatment – leading to nearly 6 million babies being born worldwide to childless couples.

Now a married mum of two living quietly in Knowle West – Louise Mullinder (37) has just released her autobiography.

She told the Knowledge: “Everything started and ended with my birth but I thought some people might be interested in what happened behind the scenes…”

One moment she could be shopping locally and the next be on national TV or flying abroad to visit an IVF clinic.

By the time she was six months old, she had toured Japan, the USA, Canada and Ireland with her parents  – clocking up 29,425 air miles.

Louise says: “Because I’ve grown up with it, I don’t know any different. I’m like my dad, laid back and go with the flow.

“Before I was born, the public went mad. All mum wanted was baby – then she had to share me with the rest of the world…”

Born in Oldham General Hospital, Louise was brought back to her home in St Philips, Bristol, when she was 12 days old. The family was greeted by 150 journalists trying to take her picture.

They moved to Whitchurch when she was one, where she lived until she came to Knowle West in 2003 with husband Wesley. She has two sons, Cameron (8) and two-year-old Aiden, both conceived naturally.

An office clerk for a shipping company, Louise says she is a Bristolian throughout and loves living in the city.

“I’ve got lovely neighbours in Knowle West and everyone I speak to is polite and kind. I like the little park on Newquay Road, Cameron loves going there, there’s lots of activities for the kids to do…

“People are really friendly and like to talk, they are genuinely nice. I can’t see myself moving out of Bristol.”

International interest has continued to follow her all her life – especially at key milestones.

She says: “If there’s a new treatment or development to do with IVF the press get excited, or when I hit certain ages such as when I was 35.

“When I had my first son, I came out of my house and there was a photographer taking pictures. At that time I didn’t have a shower and was going to mum’s for one and was a right mess – that’s the downside with having to look over your shoulder…”

The book – which took six years to complete – has been written with support from Bristol journalist Martin Powell whose family also came from Knowle West.

It has led to appearances on ITV’s Lorraine Show and the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC.

But Louise is very down to earth about her notoriety and has never made a big deal about who she is.

She laughs: “People say, ‘I recognise you but don’t know where from’ and I say that ‘it’s probably from Asda or something like that’, but I’m not going to say anything…”

 “My life as the world’s first test-tube baby” was published this month by Bristol Books, with support from Bourn Hall Clinic, which was set up by Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, the scientist and doctor behind Louise’s birth.