Four women in Sweden are trying to get pregnant after a successful uterus transplant. For some women, the desire to have children is marred by one sad fact–either through illness or a natural defect, they are without a uterus. These women have been unable to carry a baby.
Now, a doctor in Sweden has created a procedure which, if successful, will allow women to naturally carry their own babies. Nine women have undergone this new procedure, which takes the uterus of a living donor and implants it into a patient who does not have one. The doctor in charge of the procedure, Mats Brannstrom, announced that four of the nine women have also been implanted with embryos, although he has not said whether any of these implantations have resulted in a successful pregnancy.
Beginning in 2012, doctors at Sweden’s University of Gotesburg began researching to see if live donors could be used, and if using the wombs from live donors would produce better results. Previously, women in Saudi Arabia and Turkey had received donor wombs but these came from women who had passed away. Britain and Hungary are also looking at trying similar operations but like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they will be using wombs from dead donors.
The women in the study all had working ovaries and were able to use their own eggs in the fertilization process. Then by using in-vitro fertilization (IVF), four of the women who had successful uterus transplants were implanted with their own embryos. Doctors are hopeful that these women will be able to give birth to their own children. If the pregnancy is successful, then doctors caution that the women will have to be closely monitored throughout their pregnancy to see how the donor womb does. They add that these women will have to have the womb removed after two pregnancies.
All nine women received donor wombs from family members or friends. Charles Kingsland, a spokesman for Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that questions remain about how conducive a transplanted uterus will be for growing a baby. He added that there are questions as to how physiological changes to the uterus will affect the mother.
If successful, it is doubtful that other countries will allow live donors to give a womb to mothers, because of the amount of blood vessels from the donor that have to be transplanted, as well as the uterus. Eight of the nine women in the study did not have a womb because of Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), a genetic disorder that affects the development of the reproductive system in women. MRKH affects approximately one in 4,500 newborn girls. While the cause of MRKH is currently unknown, doctors and researchers believe that it may be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The ninth woman in the study received a womb after recovering from cervical cancer.
Two of the patients in the study already rejected their transplants and had to have them removed. Brannstrom, however, is hopeful that the other seven women will have varying levels of success getting pregnant. Based on earlier studies, which included animal studies, Brannstrom says they are optimistic but cannot guarantee success. If these women are successful, it will give hope to thousands of women who are unable to have children. As for the four women currently trying to get pregnant, they have already had success in the first part of their journey with the uterus transplant.
By Rachel Woodruff