Nine women in Sweden have received womb transplants from live donors in hopes of giving birth. These women are part of an experiment to see whether transferred wombs would allow women who are without a uterus to bear children.
Even though none of the transplants have resulted in babies yet the wombs seem to be functioning well. One good sign that their uterus is functioning at a healthy level is some of the women have had their menstrual cycles since receiving the transplant. As a result the first embryos could be transferred to the wombs within months.
During the transplant operation the woman’s uterus was not connected to their fallopian tubes, so they are still unable to get pregnant naturally; but by using their own frozen embryos the women can still carry their own biological children. Dr. Mats Brannstrom, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Gothenburg, said using live donors allowed them to ensure the donated wombs were functional. He also said he wanted to be sure they didn’t have any problems like a HPV infection.
The transplants, unlike other transplanted organs, are only intended to be temporary. The side effects from the anti-rejection drugs are diabetes, swelling, risk of certain cancers and high blood pressure. The women’s own eggs which were frozen before the operation will be transferred in hopes of conceiving their own biological child. After one or two pregnancies the wombs would be removed.
Most of these women are in their 30s and are excited to be a part of this first major experiment. The candidates for this experiment either had their womb removed due to cervical cancer or were born without a uterus. About one in every 4,500 females is born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome; as a result they don’t have a womb.
Transplants have been done for decades in order to improve a patient’s quality of life. Previous transplants consisted of organs such as livers, kidneys and hearts. Womb transplants are pushing that frontier even farther and as with anything new they are the cause of some serious concerns. Brannstrom, who has been leading the experiment, said there’s no text-book to look at because this is a new kind of surgery.
One woman, Lisa Gimre, who was born without a womb said if this transplant proves to be effective and safe she believes many women with MRKH syndrome would be interested. Gimre lives in Norway and runs an organization for women with MRKH.
MRKH syndrome is a disorder which affects the female reproductive system. This condition causes the uterus and the vagina to either be absent or underdeveloped. The first sign that a woman has this condition is the absence of a menstrual cycle by age 16.
Gimre, 35, said if this had been a possibility when she was younger there’s no doubt she would have been interested. Her only option of having biological children was surrogacy. In many European countries, including Sweden, using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy isn’t allowed.
Many fertility experts feel the project is significant but aren’t sure whether the transplants will result in healthy babies, or any babies for that matter. In Saudi Arabia and Turkey two attempts were made previously to transplant a womb but neither produced any babies. Turkish doctors didn’t use live donors and said although the patient got pregnant it failed after two months.
Brannstrom cautioned the transplants might not result in children but he remains optimistic. He said this is a research study that has no guarantees. It could lead to the women having children or it may not but what is certain is these women are all making a contribution to science.
Nine women in Sweden have successfully received wombs from live donors in hopes of giving birth. These women are a part of an experiment to see whether transferred wombs could allow women who are without a uterus to bear children.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)