For women born without a uterus, or with a non-functioning uterus, giving birth to a child was an impossible dream until recently. As Time Magazine reported, history was made recently when a uterus transplant recipient gave birth at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, as part of Baylor’s ongoing uterus transplant clinical trial.
The women participating in the trial receive a uterus from either living or deceased donors. The donor in this groundbreaking birth is a 36-year old mother of two who had decided not to have any more children of her own. After seeing a news story about the uterus transplant program she decided to help give another woman a shot a bearing her own child.
Baylor’s clinical trial – one of several in the U.S. – is small, with a total of ten uterus transplants planned. Of those, eight have been completed so far, although at least three of those were not successful. With this first successful birth, this trial is replicating an earlier trial in Sweden which resulted in eight successful births.
After the transplant and recovery, uterus recipients attempt in vitro fertilization (IVF), necessary because the recipients’ ovaries are not attached to their wombs. These procedures are extensive and costly, involving several surgeries and IVF treatments. While Baylor covered the costs of the trial, they are seeking funding to continue uterus transplant testing, which some estimates place as high as $500,000. Because most insurers see infertility treatments as elective treatments, it’s unlikely that it will be covered by health insurance plans even if and when it becomes a standard procedure.
The baby was healthy and screaming when it was delivered via Caesarean section. “I’ve delivered a lot of babies, but this one was special,” says Dr. Robert T. Gunby Jr., the obstetrician and gynecologist who delivered the baby. “When I started my career we didn’t even have sonograms. Now we are putting in uteruses from someone else and getting a baby.”
It’s unlikely that uterus transplants will ever replace other methods of expanding a family like adoption or surrogacy. However, over time, it may become another option for people struggling with infertility.
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