A Uterus Transplant Patient Is Having A Second Child, And This Procedure Could Be A Huge Game Changer
Fertility may seem like a god-given right, but it’s a luxury for many, including the 1.5 million married women in the U.S. unable to get pregnant. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see how many reproductive tools women have at their disposal. That is, if you count a whole other womb as a “tool” to get pregnant (it’s actually magic — a tool is an understatement). One unnamed woman who received a womb transplant is now pregnant with her second child, announced Swedish professor Mats Brannstrom, the brain behind the technology, and the procedure could open the door to motherhood for a lot of women.
Brannstrom broke the news at a recent Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists event in the U.K. The procedure extracts the uterus from a brain-dead cisgender patient with a still-beating heart and places it in a woman who either doesn’t have a uterus or doesn’t have one suitable for pregnancy. It’s like donating your body to science, but instead of a few acne-ridden college students poking around through your innards, you’re allowing a deserving woman or trans patient (we’ll get to that later) to self-actualize and start a family. Of the nine performed procedures in Sweden, there have been five documented pregnancies and four births.
There hasn’t been any success on American soil, however, with a similar procedure having caused complications due to a woman’s yeast infection at the Cleveland Clinic in March. But with nine more procedures planned at the same world-class Cleveland Clinic, surgeons are working tirelessly to allow women without uteruses altogether — not just those with fertility issues — to give birth. The transplant operation could largely benefit the 4,500 female children worldwide born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, the absence or underdevelopment of the vagina and uterus. The objective is to allow the mother to have one or two children and then have the organ removed or left to disintegrate.
Currently, the only viable method to raise a biological child in the United States is surrogacy, which is expensive, legally complicated, and sidesteps the maternal bond prospective mothers crave in a pregnancy. Uterine transplants could change all of that, as well as open up the possibility for trans women to get pregnant.
If you can transplant a uterus into a woman, science says a man or transgender woman may also be able to carry a child to term, which is huge. Dr. Karine Chung, director of the fertility preservation program at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told Yahoo, “My guess is five, 10 years away, maybe sooner.”
The uterine implantation could also extend bodily autonomy toward lesbian couples looking to procreate, when the law has unfairly not been on their side. Because they often face extra challenges when seeking fertility treatments to get pregnant, uterine transplants would give them another option as well (if they’re treated the same as straight women seeking the treatment, that is).
Like any, the operation doesn’t come without risks. To prepare for vascular attachment of the uterus, the patient has to start anti-rejection medication and continue to take it throughout pregnancy, which could be dangerous for the fetus. Cervical biopsies are conducted on a monthly basis to ensure the patient does not reject the donor’s organ.
The Cleveland Clinic is currently recruiting participants to enroll in its trial, and while the screening is rigorous, it would be cool to say you were part of baby making history.