It was a monumental moment for both doctors and women in the U.S. when a woman who had a transplanted uterus gave birth, making her the first person to do so in the country.
The mother, who was born without a uterus, received the transplant from a living donor last year at Baylor University Medical Centre in Dallas, and had a baby boy there last month, the hospital said on Friday.
At the family’s request, the hometown and the date of the birth were kept anonymous to protect their privacy, according to Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital, which is part of Baylor Scott & White Health.
A new light
Uterus transplants are seen as a beacon of hope for women who are unable to give birth because they were born without a uterus or had to have it removed because of cancer, other illness or complications from childbirth. Researchers estimate that in the United States alone, 50,000 women might be candidates for these transplants. Diving deeper, this method has been proven to be successful in other parts of the world as well, with at least 16 uterus transplants worldwide, including one in Cleveland from a deceased donor that had to be removed because of complications. Last month, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia announced that it also would start offering womb transplants. And in Sweden, eight babies have been born to women who had uterus transplants at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg since 2014.
This successful childbirth is thus an important milestone as this encourages further research and development in this line of procedures to ensure better safety for future mothers everywhere.
“To make the field grow and expand and have the procedure come out to more women, it has to be reproduced” —Dr. Liza Johannesson, a uterus transplant surgeon
Risks for a life to be born could be life-threatening
Donors undergo a five-hour operation that is more complex and takes out more tissue than a standard hysterectomy to remove the uterus. The transplant surgery is also difficult, in some ways comparable to a liver transplant, Dr. Testa said.
Recipients face the risks of surgery and anti-rejection drugs for a transplant that they, unlike someone with heart or liver failure, do not need to save their lives. Their pregnancies are considered high-risk, and the babies have to be delivered by cesarean section to avoid putting too much strain on the transplanted uterus. So far, all the births have occurred a bit earlier than the normal 40 weeks of gestation — at 32 to 36 weeks.
As the world looks on, it is not a doubt that uterus transplants will advance ways of procreation and make childbirth successful and safe.
Image Credit: The New York Times