A Swedish medical team has transplanted uteruses from two women in their 50s to their daughters. In the United States there is a group in Indiana actively recruiting women interested in undergoing the same uterine transplants. This raises some important questions.
Who would need these?
We expect most cases will be young women who have had hysterectomies for cancer, endometriosis, or uterine trauma. Women born without a uterus would also be good candidates.
Are uterus transplants new?
Yes, they are relatively new. There are a few reports of transplants but none yet that resulted in pregnancy. The two operations in Sweden were the first cases where mothers had their uterus transplanted into their daughters.
Were the operations successful?
The two women in Sweden should be able to leave the hospital this week. If all goes well, they are hoping to have frozen embryos transferred in to their transplanted uteruses down the line.
Will the patients be able to have babies?
We don’t know yet. The transplant recipients have to take anti-rejection drugs and we don’t know how those might affect the fetuses. It is also unknown whether the fetuses will grow properly in this transplanted uterus.
Are uterine transplants temporary?
This is the weird part. Once a transplanted patient has achieved a successful pregnancy she may undergo a hysterectomy to remove the foreign uterus. That way, she won't be exposed to a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs.
Does everyone like the idea of transplanted uteruses?
No, many question whether this kind of transplant s really necessary. A uterus, unlike the kidneys, heart, and liver is not essential to life. Though we do face and limb transplants among others not essential to life.
Another issue is whether health care dollars should be spent on uterine transplants when a woman who lacks a uterus can turn to a surrogate. Is it worth the surgical risks, and the risk of the anti-rejection drugs?
- Dr. O
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