Woman undergoes uterus transplant, has baby

First case ever of its kind

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD

Newborn baby

Oct 7, 2014 — A Swedish woman who underwent a uterus transplant has had a healthy, normal little boy. Reintroduced as an embryo into the womb after an IVF procedure, the baby arrived early last month. His 31-year-old mother carried him in what had been the uterus of a 61-year-old menopausal woman until week 32 of the pregnancy, when she developed preeclampsia. The baby was delivered by Caesarean section and weighed 3 lbs. and 14.6 ounces, according to researchers.

This first-ever-in-the-world successful pregnancy and delivery for a woman with a transplanted uterus was first reported in The Lancet, a medical journal. It was part of a uterus transplantation research project developed at the University of Gothenburg, in which nine woman received wombs from live donors. The participants were either born without a uterus or lost it because of cancer.

Researchers later removed two of the nine transplanted wombs—most of which were donated by family members—because one was infected and the other had blood clots in the transplanted blood vessels. The remaining seven tried to become pregnant through a process in which their own embryos, produced through IVF, were reintroduced into the womb.

“The reason for the woman’s preeclampsia is unknown, but it may be due to her immunosuppressive treatment combined with the fact that she is missing one kidney,” said Professor Mats Brännström, who is leading the research project. According to the Lancet story, he wondered if the age of the donated womb was also a factor and said that preeclampsia is generally more common among women who have become pregnant through IVF treatment.

Since the delivery, the new mother has had three mild rejection episodes, one of which occurred during the pregnancy. Doctors often see rejection episodes in other types of transplants. In the Swedish woman’s case, the rejection was stopped with immunosuppressive treatment. The six other women in the study are continuing trying to get pregnant.

There have been two other experiments with transplanted uteruses, one in Saudi Arabia in 200 and in Turkey in 2011, but neither resulted in a successful pregnancy and delivery. In both cases the wombs had to be removed shortly after they were transplanted.

The successful procedure “gives us scientific evidence that the concept of uterus transplantation can be used to treat uterine factor infertility, which up to now has remained the last untreatable form of female infertility. It also shows that transplants with a live donor are possible, including if the donor is past menopause,’ says Brännström, the Lancet story says.

(Based materials obtained from the University of Gothenburg.)

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