Cleveland – Many of the women born without a uterus in the U.S. may soon be able to get a fully functional uterus. Doctors now believe that they will be able to successfully transplant a fully functional uterus, lending hope that many women unable to give birth naturally may soon be able to do so.
Cleveland Clinic surgeons are now aiming to be the first team in the U.S. to transplant a uterus into a woman born without one.
To take this initial step forward, eight women have been chosen from around the country to undergo the screening tests at the Cleveland Clinic. Among these eight hopeful women is a 26-year-old with two adopted children who still wants to take the risk and try to have her own baby.
Patients in the study would follow a complex process that involves uterus donation from a deceased donor, the stimulation and freezing of multiple eggs, and later a C-section birth.
The uterus will be transplanted into a woman’s pelvis within 6 to 8 hours of the donor’s death. After the operation is successfully completed, the patient will be given one year to heal before the frozen eggs are thawed and implanted gradually until a successful pregnancy is achieved.
Tommaso Falcone, a doctor from the Cleveland team accepted that these transplants will be “highly experimental,”. He added, “Cleveland Clinic has a history of innovation in transplant and reproductive surgery and will explore the feasibility of this approach for women in the United States.”
The Cleveland doctors will use deceased donors in order to avoid putting healthy women who might be willing to donate at risk. For a live donor, the operation would be far more complicated than a standard hysterectomy and takes much longer, seven to 11 hours, Tzakis said.
According to Lisa Campo-Engelstein, motherhood is an important part of a woman’s life and it is important to have babies naturally. Lisa is an assistant professor at the Center for Biomedical Ethics Education And Research at Albany Medical College in New York.
Uterus transplants would also be able to help those women who have their uterus removed due to medical complications. Though this transplant would only be on a temporary basis.
Two previous attempts, one in Turkey and the other in Saudi Arabia have not been successful, however. Other clinics and hospitals in the United States, and in the U.K. are getting ready to try the surgery but are not as close as the team in Cleveland is.
Sweden is the country where uterine transplants have been done successfully. All of them have been done at the University of Gothenburg and with a uterus from a live donor. After Sweden, the government of UK also permitted uterine transplant.
The Swedish team used live donors and showed that a uterus from a woman past menopause, transplanted into a young recipient, can still support a pregnancy. In five cases, the donor was the recipient’s mother, which raised the dizzying possibility of a woman giving birth from the same womb that produced her.
Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, the leading force pushing this concept stated, “There are women who won’t adopt or have surrogates, for reasons that are personal, cultural or religious.”
Tzakis added, “These women know exactly what this is about,” he said. “They’re informed of the risks and benefits. They have a lot of time to think about it, and think about it again. Our job is to make it as safe and successful as possible.”
In preparation for the project the clinic plans to conduct about 10 practice runs, as an experiment, and go ahead only after that. Tzakis is hopeful that such transplants could later become a commonly followed practice in the United States.
If this transplant is successful, as many as 50,000 women in the U.S. would end up benefiting from it. However, the procedure is not without its risks.
Such transplants will only be done for the purpose of enabling child birth and soon after one or two babies are born, the uterus would be removed. This would be done to prevent the patients from taking transplant anti-rejection drugs.
Uterine recipient women would always have potential dangers like risks of surgery and anti-rejection drugs after a transplant. Even if the transplant is successful their pregnancies would be high-risk and fetuses may be harmed by the anti-rejection drugs.
One patient planning to have the transplant reached the Cleveland clinic after travelling 1,000 miles. “I crave that experience,” she said. “I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feet swelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.