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Pregnancy hope for womb transplant patient

3 February 2014
Appeared in BioNews 740

A womb transplant recipient is set to become pregnant after doctors successfully transferred an embryo into the transplanted uterus. If the embryo embeds and the pregnancy is successful, the baby will become the first child born following a womb transplant.

The woman, who is affected by MRKH syndrome and was born without a womb, received a uterus donated by her mother. She was one of nine patients to receive uteruses donated by living relatives in an ongoing trial being performed in Sweden (reported in BioNews 738).

'A success would be an important proof of principle that a procedure is now available to cure uterine infertility', said Dr Mats Brännström of the University of Gothenburg, who is leading the trial.

Although a pregnancy has been achieved from a womb transplant before, there have been no children born using donated uteruses. In 2011 a Turkish woman received a uterus from an unrelated deceased donor and later became pregnant. However, the pregnancy was terminated after eight weeks when an examination revealed no embryo heartbeat (reported in BioNews 705). In 2000 a woman in Saudi Arabia underwent a womb transplant using a uterus from a living donor but it had to be removed after a clot developed due to poor blood flow.

Some doctors believe that deceased donors are more suitable, as extra supportive tissue and vasculature can be transplanted along with the uterus, in addition to preventing healthy people from undergoing serious unnecessary procedures. The Swedish trial uses living donors, however, as the researchers involved believe this ensures that the uterus is in a good condition and is a better immunological match.

Dr Richard Smith of the charity Womb Transplant UK, which is raising money to perform womb transplants in the UK using deceased donors (reported in BioNews 665), said the 'principal concern for me is if the baby will get enough nourishment from the placenta and if the blood flow is good enough'.

As the woman has intact ovaries, doctors were able to create an embryo using her own eggs, which were cryopreserved before the transplant. About a year later they were fertilised in vitro and an embryo was transferred into the uterus. If the pregnancy is successful, the doctors plan to deliver the baby by caesarean section. The patient may then be allowed one more attempted pregnancy, following which the transplanted uterus will be removed.

Stina Järvholm, the psychologist working with Dr Brännström's team, is expecting months of challenging work to come. 'It's the gap between hope and despair', she said.

Hopes for first womb transplant baby
Daily Telegraph |  26 January 2014
Recycled wombs could nurture child and grandchild
New Scientist |  14 January 2014
Woman 'to become first in the world to give birth to a baby from a transplanted womb' after doctors successfully implant embryo
Daily Mail |  26 January 2014
21 September 2015 - by Dr Nicola Williams 
There are currently good arguments for allowing living donors to be used in uterus transplants, but as research continues there may come a time when only deceased donors will be justifiable...
13 October 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
A boy has become the first baby to be born to a womb transplant recipient....
13 October 2014 - by Dr Amel Alghrani 
Following the first baby born after a womb transplant, the time has come to debate uterus transplantation. How will it be regulated in the UK and what social, legal and ethical issues does it raise?
10 March 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Four women who had womb transplants have had embryos transferred in an attempt to become pregnant...
10 March 2014 - by Dr Kevin Grimes 
Ethics is about communication, and this is true when looking back on our ethical discussion of womb transplantation...
20 January 2014 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Nine women have received transplants of uteruses donated by their mothers or other living relatives in an ongoing trial of an experimental procedure at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden...
20 May 2013 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Doctors have terminated the pregnancy of 22-year-old Derya Sert, the first woman to receive a womb transplant from a deceased donor....
15 April 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
One of the first women to receive a womb transplant is pregnant, the treating hospital has disclosed. A spokesperson said that early test results were 'consistent' with signs of pregnancy....
24 September 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
Two women in Sweden received uterus transplants from their mothers, with hopes it will allow them to conceive children of their own...
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