A baby boy just made US history in Dallas. His mother, who received an experimental womb transplant to get pregnant, is the first person in the country to give birth following this procedure.
Researchers see womb transplants as a potential new option for women who can’t give birth because of issues with their uterus.
For the sake of privacy, the hospital hasn’t released many details, including the parents’ identity and when the baby was born. The new mother, though, shared her thoughts in a statement.
“Last month… we were able to add a beautiful baby boy to our family after a successful uterine transplant. We consider ourselves profoundly blessed to have been a part of this study, and we are optimistic that this initial success will lead to many more in the future,” she said.
The first outside Gothenburg
This was the first birth out of an experimental trial taking place at Baylor University Medical Center. In the trial, women received wombs from donors aged between 30 and 60. This time, the mother, who was born without a womb, received one from a 36-year old nurse with two kids. Because the new womb isn’t connected to the ovaries, the only way these women can get pregnant is through in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Until now, a hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden was the only other place in the world where women with transplanted wombs were able to give birth. Dr. Liza Johannesson, who was a member of the surgical team in Sweden, moved to Dallas to work with Baylor’s team.
“We were very proud of the first birth in Sweden,” Dr. Johannesson told Time. “But this birth is what’s going to make the field grow, because this is the first time this has been replicated anywhere else. This step is equally, if not even more, important.”
The team at Baylor also made improvements to the procedure. To give the patient’s body time to heal after the transplant, the Swedish team waited for at least a year before attempting IVF. But since the women enrolled in the trial were young and could recover fairly quickly, Baylor scrapped the wait to only a few months. That minimizes the amount of time the women take immune suppressants, which protect from organ rejection but also come with painful side effects.
Physical and Financial Stress
It’s not all pomp and splendor just yet. The womb transplant is immensely demanding for patients, doctors, and even donors. The donors have to undergo a 5-hour surgery that slices out more tissue than your usual womb removal, and the transplant surgery is also difficult. Even if the transplant succeeds, the women have to give birth through caesarian section to avoid putting too much stress on the new womb. To top things off, the womb has to be cut back out so that the women don’t have to keep taking immune suppressants for the rest of their lives.
Doctors add that in reality, it would be difficult for many women to opt for womb transplants from a financial standpoint. At the moment, womb transplants can cost up to $500,000. Even in the event that Baylor’s experimental does succeed, it’s not clear whether the treatment will be covered by insurance.
But medical professionals understand how much it can mean for someone to have their own child. “A lot of people underestimate the impact that infertility can have on a person’s wellbeing. It can have such a profound impact,” Dr. Johannesson explains.
At the least, the prospect of womb transplants brings optimism for girls who would’ve had their doors shut to pregnancy. “For the girl who is getting the [infertility] diagnosis now, it’s not hopeless,” Kristin Posey Wallis, a uterine transplant nurse, told Time. “There’s hope.”