Uterus Transplant From Deceased Donor Brings New Life Into The World
By Sofy Robertson
A woman born without a uterus has become the first person to give birth to a live, healthy baby following a womb transplant by a deceased donor.
The birth of the healthy baby girl marks another milestone in fertility treatment after experts had begun to doubt that using a deceased donor would be possible in the wake of ten failed attempts.
Since 2013, there have been eleven births using a live uterus donor. This has usually been made possible when the recipient has a close friend or family member who is willing to donate.
Dr Dani Ejzenberg, who works at Hospital das Clinicas at the University of São Paulo and led the research said:
“The first uterus transplants from live donors were a medical milestone, creating the possibility of childbirth for many infertile women with access to suitable donors and the needed medical facilities.
“However, the need for a live donor is a major limitation as donors are rare, typically being willing and eligible family members or close friends.
“The numbers of people willing and committed to donate organs upon their own deaths are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population.” (The Independent)
This advance in research, offering the possibility of using deceased donors, would decrease the costs and remove the risks of a live transplant.
The first womb transplants in the UK are due to occur in early 2019 and experts have welcomed the fact that there is now proof of success in both live and deceased donor transplants.
Infertility affects as many as 15% of couples of reproductive age. Around one in 500 women will have uterine infertility, due to a range of factors including birth defects, injury, or conditions like infections or cancer.
The mother in this case, who is not being identified, was born with a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. In this condition, parts of the reproductive system like the uterus don’t develop, although women have functioning ovaries and go through puberty normally.
The process leading up to the successful birth of the baby girl has not been quick, or easy. Surgery took place in 2016 after the donor, aged 45, died of a brain haemorrhage. The operation took ten and a half hours to connect the donor’s uterus to the recipient’s blood vessels, muscles and birth canal.
Following the transplant, the woman began having regular periods and, after seven months, the lining of her new uterus was thick enough to transplant fertilised eggs which had been frozen after IVF before the surgery.
Despite the somewhat unconventional method of conception, the woman’s pregnancy was described as “uncomplicated”, although antibiotics were needed to treat a kidney infection, which posed a greater risk because of the immunosuppressant drugs required to prevent transplant rejection.
Born at 35 weeks and three days, the baby girl was delivered by caesarean section and the womb was recovered, with no obvious anomalies, allowing the mother to come off the immunosuppressant drugs.