For women who were born without a uterus or lost theirs as a result of cancer, there’s good news: pioneering womb transplants that have taken place in Sweden could potentially give women a second chance at having children. Dr. Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Gothenburg University, and his team have embarked on a program of embryo transfers for women who were born without a womb or lost theirs due to cancer. Brannstrom has predicted that three to four of the nine women who received the embryo transfers could possibly be successful in giving birth. Prior to the transplant, the women had In Vitro Fertilization, using their own eggs in order to make embryos.
Other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have done womb transplants, but the women receiving the transfers have not yet succeeded in giving birth. The technique performed by Brannstrom has faced some controversy due to the fact that he uses wombs donated by living women who are related to his patients. In other cases, the wombs used have been provided by deceased donors.
The women receiving the transplants have to take drugs during their pregnancy in order to ensure that the organ is not rejected by their body, and they must also be monitored closely for progress throughout the pregnancy. The womb transplants can handle up to two pregnancies and must then be removed.
Others medical practitioners are questioning Brannstrom’s methods, questioning as to how the physiological changes in the uterus could affect the mother and if the transplanted uterus would be conducive to harboring a growing baby.
According to Dr. Richard Smith, head of the UK charity Womb Transplant UK, large chunks of blood vessels were removed from the donor in addition to the uterus, which raised some questions regarding risks associated with the operation for the donor. According to him, the operation is not a life-saving procedure, which raises some ethical concerns. While it is still in the developmental stage, the development of these womb transplants has served to increase hope for thousands of women throughout Europe and the UK who are childless and hope to give birth one day.