Thanks to the first successful womb transplant, women who suffer from certain infertility problems now have another viable option to achieve pregnancy and birth.
The 36-year-old mother gave birth to a son who was delivered eight weeks premature due to pre-eclampsia. He was delivered by caesarian section. The baby was carried to term (almost) in a womb that was transplanted from a 61-year-old friend of the recipient. The mother suffers from Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuester-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, in which women are born without part or all of their womb or vagina.
The woman was part of a study conducted by professors at the University of Gothenburg who originally transplanted nine uteri into women from Sweden with MRKH syndrome or those who had previously undergone hysterectomies. Initially the study showed great promise with some women beginning to menstruate within 2-3 months. In other cases, the body either rejected the donated wombs or infection forced hysterectomy of the new uteri.
Even the mother who recently gave birth had a few setbacks when her body tried to reject the new womb three times. She was treated effectively with corticosteroid drug therapy. One year after the 10 hour surgery to transplant the uterus, an IVF embryo was inserted into the new womb.
Professor Matts Brännström, who spearheaded the research with his colleagues, spoke about the transplants in The Lancet saying, “Our success is based on more than 10 years of intensive animal research and surgical training by our team and opens up the possibility of treating many young females worldwide that suffer from uterine infertility.”
Interestingly, the donated uterus came from a woman who had already experienced menopause meaning that the donor pool just increased exponentially. Though Brännströmand and his team are celebrating with the happy mother and baby, they admit it will be a long time before the procedure is commonplace and it’s not without negative side effects. Women with current and future transplants will be limited to two children and then the wombs will be removed so they no longer have to take steroids (anti-rejection medication).
For many women, the side effects will be considered a relatively minor trade off for the end result. Gothenburg team member, Liza Johannesson, Gynecology Surgeon, said, “this has a huge impact because it gives hope to those women (and men also, of course,) who thought they would never have a child.”