When the stork came calling at the SAT Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, the oldest tertiary-level maternal and child care hospital in the State, on Friday, there was a sense of jubilation in the air.

The hospital achieved a rare milestone when the first babies to be conceived through advanced Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) in a public sector hospital in the State were born here in the early hours.

The twins — a boy and a girl — born to Nikhila and Sureshkumar of Uchakkada, Parassala, here with the help of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), were hale and hearty and weighed 2 kg each, Sheila Balakrishnan, who heads the Fertility Centre at the hospital, said.

Advanced fertility treatment utilising ART had so far been available only in private sector hospitals in the State where the cost of various procedures could be anything upward Rs.2.5 lakh. SAT Hospital became the first public sector hospital in the State to offer similar facilities, when in August last, a fertility centre with all modern equipment, clean room, and laboratory facilities were opened here as one of the projects under the Rs.120-crore Prime Minister’s Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

The centre was being run on a no profit, no loss basis. While expensive procedures such as IVF cannot be offered free of cost, care had been taken to offer it at the minimum possible cost so that these were not out of reach for the common man. The cost of IVF procedure differed from patient to patient and, in the current instance, was less than Rs.1 lakh, SAT Hospital Superintendent K.E. Elizabeth said.

The first batch of nine women underwent IVF procedures in April. Though three women conceived, only two pregnancies were carried to term, the first of which was delivered on Friday.

So far, 34 women had undergone IVF procedures here, and there had been six viable pregnancies. Even in the best centres in the world, the success rate for IVF was only about 25-30 per cent.

The second set of IVF twins were expected to be delivered next week. The Fertility Centre now offered all sophisticated procedures using ART, including IVF, intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and surgical sperm retrieval techniques apart from fertility-enhancing laparoscopic, endoscopic, and hysteroscopic surgeries. Embryologists were not available in the government sector and the Centre hired them on contract basis.