The UK is known for pushing the limits of medical science, and their latest plans are nothing short of impressive. After receiving the green light, doctors have scheduled 10 womb transplants, a surgery that was believed to be impossible until not long ago.
Part of a clinical trial approved by the Health Research Authority, the transplants will start taking place in spring. Provided that everything goes according to plan, doctors expect the first baby conceived in a transplanted womb to be born in 2018.
Recent years have proved that womb transplants can be successful, and Swedish doctors are the ones perfecting the surgery. As of 2014, reports show that 9 Swedish women had already undergone uterus transplants with donors within their family.
During the same year, one of the women in the trial also conceived a baby; upon giving birth, she became the first woman in the world to take a pregnancy to term with a transplanted womb from a live donor.
The ten British women that will receive the procedure will be transplanted uteruses from brain dead donors; if the surgery is successful, the women will have to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) because their fallopian tubes will not have linked to the donated organ.
According to a BBC interview with Richard Smith of Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, the leader of the transplant team, the project has been developing for the past 20 years. He said it’s the women who want to have babies but are impaired for one reason of another who keep the team going.
There are plenty of factors that can lead to the necessity of a womb transplant, such as being born without a uterus, or having the uterus removed; either way, it’s this kind of really heart-rending stuff that Dr. Smith’s team tries to mend.
After the six-hour procedure of transplantation, doctors closely monitor the patient for one year. If the surgery proves successful, the woman gets the green light to move on to fertilization. The baby developed from an IVF embryo will have to be delivered through C-section at eight months gestation.
After two pregnancies – the maximum number supported – the transplanted womb is removed. It is futile to keep it, as the patient would have to take immunosuppressant drugs every day of their life in order to avoid organ rejection.
Even though he is not part of the trial, Adam Balen from British Fertility Society expressed his excitement, saying that it’s great to see the UK team’s hard work over the years be given the go-ahead into clinical practice.
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