A woman who had been born without a uterus has managed to give birth after a successful uterus transplant, making this the first birth after a uterus transplant in the US.
The baby born from a donated uterus [Photo by Baylor University Medical Center, via Associated Press]
Organ transplants are no longer just meant to save lives; they’re now also meant to improve the quality of life of those who need them. Doctors have performed hand transplants, penis transplants, and have even given a new nose, eyelids, lips, palate, and jaw to a woman who had suffered disfigurement after getting shot in the face. While people can technically survive without these body parts, there’s a chance that they won’t have a good quality of life.
Back in 2014, a successful uterus transplant had enabled a woman to give birth to a healthy baby. This more recent birth was the first time that the transplant has worked outside of the hospital in Sweden that pioneered the procedure.
Doctors deliver the baby from the mother's uterus [Photo by Shannon Faulk/Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas]
The fact that the procedure in Sweden can be replicated outside of the country is very good news. This means that more women may be able to avail of the surgery if they choose. Doctors at Baylor University are now exploring the possible limits of the procedure, like whether or not the procedure would still be successful if the donated uterus had come from someone who was not a family member, or even from a cadaver.
Baylor University’s trial had a total of 10 women participating. Most of these women had Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a condition that makes pregnancy and giving birth impossible. However, these women had to have been healthy and in possession of functional ovaries in order to be considered for the study.
Eight of the women had already received transplants, including the mother who had just given birth. Four of the transplants had already failed, while one participant had become pregnant and the two others had been trying to conceive. The uteri in the four failed procedures had already been removed.
That’s the major difference between uterus transplants and other organ transplants. In other transplants, the donated organ is meant to be there for the rest of the recipient’s life. However, uterus transplants are meant to be temporary. After the recipient gives birth once or twice, she undergoes surgery once again to have the organ removed. Thus, she would not have to spend her life taking immunosuppressants that can make her more prone to dangerous complications.
Women who are unable to conceive and give birth may now be able to.
The donated uterus reportedly came from a woman named Taylor Siler, who works as a nurse in Dallas. She has two children, and says that she donated her uterus so another woman who is otherwise unable to give birth will be able to produce a child. The recipient, however, has chosen to remain anonymous.
While Siler’s donation is certainly generous and heartwarming, it’s important to note that the uterus transplant procedure is still in its early days. Thus, not all the stories are success stories. The first woman in the US to receive a uterus transplant underwent a nine-hour surgery to receive the donated organ, which came from a cadaver. However, she had to have the donated organ removed after she suffered a yeast infection.
Since the procedure is so new, these kinds of setbacks aren’t surprising. However, each setback may actually a step forward in perfecting the procedure. Women who have been told their whole lives that they will be unable to conceive and give birth may finally have more of a choice over their own reproduction.
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