Could pregnancy finally become a reality for some women through a new method? Medical research being conducted in Sweden may make it possible for women who have lost a uterus to cancer, or those who were born without one to become pregnant by undergoing a new medical procedure. Four women who have previously received a transplantation of a womb, have now had embryos transplanted in them in an attempt to become pregnant.
Dr. Mats Brannstrom (professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg) who is leading the research study, has not confirmed whether these women have become pregnant yet. In total, nine women so far in Sweden have had a womb transplantation since 2012. Two of those women have had them removed because of complications.
The experimental procedure involved wombs donated by the patients’ mothers and other close relatives. All nine women would be using their own eggs to make embryos in hopes to have their own biological children. To do this, the women received in vitro fertilization before taking the donated wombs.
So far, only four of these women have received embryos. “We plan to make attempts with the others when they are ready,” said Dr. Brannstrom who is optimistic that at least 50 percent of all the women will become pregnant. It is possible that some of the nine may become pregnant, some may not have a full pregnancy due to miscarriage and some will still not be able to become pregnant. Brannstrom and his team described the procedures in a study published last week. He explained that there were “mild rejection episodes” in four patients out of nine during the transplantation of the new wombs.
For those patients that do become pregnant, they will be considered as high-risk pregnancies and will be monitored consistently explains Dr. Brannstrom. They will also be put on a low dose of drugs to keep from the new uterus’ from being rejected by the body.
Experts are unsure if the mother’s new wombs will be a safe environment for their babies. Will they will get proper blood supply and nutrients from their mothers? As the womb progresses during pregnancy, doctors will be keeping a watchful eye on its performance. Dr. Brannstrom plans to remove the new uterus’ after a maximum of two pregnancies.
There are questions about how the mothers will react to their new wombs. A spokesman from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Dr. Charles Kingsland wonders if the new wombs “will be conducive” to a growing infant and how the mother will react to the physiological changes of the new uterus.
Dr. Yacoub Khalaf (director at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital in London) thinks that since the embryos have been transferred, it is a good sign that the research is moving ahead however, “a live birth will be the best validation that this works” He says. He goes on to say that he’s unsure whether blood flow to the new uterus’ will adapt in the same way as in regular pregnancies.
It is possible that this is the largest pregnancy test being conducted on women with a uterine transplantation. Two previously attempted procedures were done in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, however both failed to produce babies. Operations involving the transplantation of new wombs from women who have just died are being scheduled to take place in Britain and Hungary.
By Katie Sevigny