20 May 2013
ByAppeared in BioNews 705
Doctors have terminated the pregnancy of 22-year-old Derya Sert, the first woman to receive a womb transplant from a deceased donor.
The pregnancy was terminated after an examination at eight weeks gestation showed no embryo heartbeat. A statement released from Akdeniz University Hospital, Antalya, Turkey, read: 'The general health status of the patient is fine. IVF will be continued when she is ready'.
Like one in every 5,000 women, Ms Sert was born without a uterus. However, in August 2011 she underwent pioneering womb transplant surgery performed by Professor Ömer Özkan at Akdeniz University Hospital. Following the procedure doctors waited 18 months to make sure the organ was still functioning before Ms Sert underwent IVF treatment using her own eggs. Her pregnancy was announced in April (reported in BioNews 700).
Although Ms Sert was the first woman to receive a womb transplant from a deceased donor, she was not the first woman to undergo womb transplantation. In 2000 a woman in Saudi Arabia received a womb from a live donor, but a clot developed due to poor blood flow and the transplant was removed after three months.
There is still no consensus among doctors as to whether living or deceased donors should be used for womb transplantation. Some experts have expressed apprehension at removing the womb from a living woman for a procedure which is not lifesaving. However, an organ from a living donor can be a better match. Indeed, in BioNews 674 it was reported that two Swedish women successfully received uterus transplants from their mothers.
The field of womb transplantation is not without its critics. Numerous ethical and safety concerns have been raised by experts. These include the risk of the new womb being rejected and the risk that anti-rejection drugs will cause harmful side effects during pregnancy. Fertility expert Professor Lord Robert Winston has previously suggested that a pregnancy could result in potentially fatal complications.
However, Dr Özkan has previously answered critics by saying, 'Many people think that womb transplants aren't necessary because they're not lifesaving operations and that women have the option of adoption or surrogacy. But we've had applications from women all over the world wanting womb transplants. This is absolutely necessary for these women: you just have to ask them to realise this'.