London, UK – After the success of Swedish doctors, a total of 10 womb transplants will be completed as part of a clinical trial in the United Kingdom. The trial has been approved by the Health Research Authority and these women will be the first ones to undergo the procedure in order to get pregnant.
“The UK team has been working on this for many years and so it is very exciting that they have been given the go-ahead to move into clinical practice,” said British Fertility Society Adam Balen, as reported on BBC.
In recent years, Swedish doctors practiced transplanting wombs to nine women, who got the organs from living family members. In October of last year, a woman from the trial became the first one in the world to ever give birth from a transplanted womb from a live donor.
Since this trial showed to be a success, the U.K. decided to follow the same steps, but with a difference: the reproductive organs will come from “brain-dead” donors with healthy bodies. If successful, the women will be impregnated via in vitro fertilization since their Fallopian tubes will not be connected to the “foreign” wombs. The first baby from this experiment is expected to be burned in 2018.
“Over the years I have quite a lot of crisis with this project,” said transplant team leader Dr. Richard Smith of Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London to BBC. “But when you meet the women who have been born without a uterus, or who have had their uterus removed for one reason or another, this is really heart-rending stuff and that is what has kept us going.”
Around one in 7,000 women are born without a womb, while others lose their womb to cancer. This opportunity would offer women who want to be mothers other option than surrogacy or adoption.
About the procedure
The operation will take around six hours to be completed. The patient will have to take immunosuppressant drugs following the transplant and through any pregnancy to prevent her body from rejecting the donor’s organ. However, the patient could only go for two pregnancies with the transplanted womb. After that, it is removed to protect the patient to take these drugs from the rest of her life.
The patient’s health will be monitored during a year before the embryo is implanted in the womb. The baby would be formed from a combination of the woman’s own eggs and the partner’s sperm using in vitro fertilization. If everything appears to go well, the baby will be delivered in eight months by caesarean section.
According to the team conducting the trial, each procedure costs around £50,000 to perform, but women will not have to cover the expenses by themselves. In fact, the project has been self-funded and supported by public donations.
Opinions on the matter
Though several women have applauded the idea, other people have begun to question the UK’s decision. First of all, some do not agree to take the uteruses from “brain-dead” donors who have healthy bodies as opposed to the willing, living family member donors of the Swedish cases.
Moreover, there is also a concern on the expense of the procedure. Though these ten women will not have to pay for the complicated transplant, other women will. Those who will be able to afford it will forget about adopting orphans.