20 June 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 612
A British woman has agreed to donate her womb to her daughter if she's selected for experimental womb transplant surgery to be performed by doctors at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Eva Ottosson, 56, told the BBC that this is the only chance for her daughter Sara, 25, who was born without a uterus and fully functioning reproductive organs, to have a child of her own barring surrogacy, which is prohibited in Sweden where Sarah lives.
Sara is one of around seven patients being evaluated by Dr Mats Brannstrom, who is leading the Swedish medical team, to establish patient suitability for the uterus transplant surgery which he wants to perform in five or six patients beginning early next year.
The surgery is high risk and has only been attempted once before in 2000 in a woman in Saudi Arabia using a womb from a 46-year-old donor transplanted into a 26-year-old. Complications due to blood clotting forced the uterus to be removed 99 days later.
In 2007, the Swedish team had some success in achieving a pregnancy in sheep, but others had fatal complications. Some scientists have criticised the procedure as too premature for human experimentation.
If the surgery goes ahead successfully, doctors will implant embryos created using her own eggs and her partner's sperm by IVF. Any birth will need to be by caesarean section. Provided all goes well, her mother's donated womb would have to be removed two to three years later to avoid future medical complications.
Dr Brannstrom admits that the procedure is much more technically demanding than a kidney, liver or heart transplant. 'The difficulty with it is avoiding haemorrhage and making sure you have long enough blood vessels to connect the womb', he told the Telegraph.
Ms Ottosson told the BBC that initially she thought it was a bit 'weird' for her daughter to use the same womb that she had developed in, but now they consider it to be equivalent to organ donation. She said they are focused on the risks of the surgery involved.
The procedure could bring hope to an estimated 15,000 women of childbearing age in the UK who are born without a uterus or have lost uterine function from damage or removal due to illnesses like cancer.