Medical first: woman with womb transplant gives birth

By Drum Digital
06 October 2014

In a medical first, a woman in Sweden has given birth after receiving a womb transplant, the doctor who performed the pioneering procedure recently said.

The 36-year-old mother received a uterus from a close family friend last year. Her baby boy was born prematurely but healthy last month, and mother and child are now at home and doing well. The identities of the woman and her husband were not disclosed.

"The baby is fantastic," said Dr Mats Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm IVF who led the research and delivered the baby with the help of his wife, a midwife. "But it is even better to see the joy in the parents and how happy he made them."

Brannstrom said it was "still sinking in that we have actually done it”.

The feat opens up a new but still experimental alternative for some of the thousands of women each year who are unable to have children because they lost a uterus to cancer or were born without one. Before this case proved the concept can work, some experts had questioned whether a transplanted womb would be able to nourish a foetus.

Others have questioned whether such an extreme step - expensive and fraught with medical risks - would even be a realistic option for many women.

Dr Glenn Schattman, past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies and a Cornell University fertility specialist, said womb transplants are likely to remain very uncommon.

"This would not be done unless there were no other options," he said. "It requires a very long surgery and not without risk and complications."

For the proud parents, the years of research and experimentation were well worth the wait.

"It was a pretty tough journey over the years, but we now have the most amazing baby," the father said in a telephone interview. "He is very, very cute, and he doesn't even scream, he just murmurs."

Brannstrom and colleagues transplanted wombs into nine women over the last two years as part of a study, but complications forced removal of two of the organs. Earlier this year, Brannstrom began transferring embryos into the seven other women. He said there are two other pregnancies at least 25 weeks along.

The Swedish woman had healthy ovaries, but she was born without a uterus - a syndrome seen in one girl in 4 500. She received a uterus from a 61-year-old family friend who had gone through menopause after giving birth to two children.

Brannstrom said that he was surprised such an old uterus was so successful, but that the most important factor seemed to be that the womb was healthy.

The recipient has had to take three medicines to prevent her body from rejecting the new organ. About six weeks after the transplant, she got her menstrual period - a sign the womb was healthy.

After an abnormal fatal heart rate was detected, the baby was delivered by caesarean section. He weighed about 1, 8 kg - normal for that stage of pregnancy. Full gestation is about 40 weeks. The baby was released from the neonatal unit 10 days after birth.

"He's no different from any other child, but he will have a good story to tell," the father said. "One day he can look at the newspaper articles about how he was born and know that he was the first in the world" to be born this way.

-SAPA-AP

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