Woman gives birth using womb transplanted from dead donor

Desiree Burns
December 5, 2018

TThe first successful birth of a child from a womb transplanted from a dead donor in Brazil should give hope to thousands of British women that they can have children, doctors said.

The baby girl's mother was born without a uterus as a result of Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome a rare disorder that affects a woman's reproductive system.

Surgeons spent 10.5 hours plumbing in the organ by connecting veins, arteries, ligaments and vaginal canals.

The donor was a 45-year-old woman who died of subarachnoid haemorrhage - a type of stroke involving bleeding on the surface of the brain. "The numbers of people willing to donate organs upon their own deaths are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population".

There have been 10 uterus transplants from deceased donors attempted in the U.S., the Czech Republic, and Turkey, but this is the first one which resulted in a live birth.

Two more transplants are planned as part of the Brazilian study.

Dr Dani Ejzenberg, from Hospital das Clínicas in Sao Paolo, said: "The first uterus transplants from live donors were a medical milestone, creating the possibility of childbirth for many infertile women with access to suitable donors and the needed medical facilities".

The current norm for receiving a womb transplant is that the organ would come from a live family member willing to donate it. Ejzenberg said that was done because it would have been expensive to keep the woman on immunosuppressive drugs and the team hoped to use scarce funds to allow other women to undergo the procedure.

How is a womb transplant performed?

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This woman had a single in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle four months before the transplant took place, which resulted in eight fertilised eggs which were cryopreserved.

She added, however, that the outcomes and effects of womb donations from live and deceased donors have yet to be compared, and said the technique could still be refined and optimised.

Her baby girl was born via caesarean section at 35 weeks and three days, weighing 2.5kg (about 6lbs) and the transplanted uterus was removed during the caesarean section and showed no anomalies. The first of these occurred in Sweden in 2013 and since then, 11 babies have been born after similar procedures, according to the Lancet.

Once the baby was delivered, the team removed the womb in the same operation.

Mother and baby left the hospital three days later.

The downside of this surgery was high doses of immunosuppression drugs and moderate, although manageable, levels of blood loss.

Doctors believe the procedure could help infertile women whose only options now are surrogacy or adoption. They cite women with inoperable fibroids, or abnormal uterine growths, those who have experienced embryo implantation failure and those who have received pelvic radiation as categories of women who may be able to benefit from uterus transplantation in the future.

What is a uterus transplant?

Richard Kennedy, president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), said: "The IFFS welcomes this announcement which is an anticipated evolution from live donors with clear advantages and the prospect of increasing supply for women with hitherto untreatable infertility".

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