A baby girl born at Cleveland Clinic is making history and offering hope to women with uterine factor infertility.

By Hollee Actman Becker
Updated July 10, 2019
Thierry Dosogne/Getty Images

A baby girl is making headlines for becoming the first ever in North America to be born in a groundbreaking way: from a transplanted uterus of a deceased donor.

The tot was delivered via cesarean section in June at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, to a mom in her mid-30s. She is one of 10 women in a research trial suffering from uterine factor infertility (UFI), a term describing abnormalities of the uterus. Women with UFI can’t get pregnant because they were either born without a uterus, lost their uterus, or are living with one that does not function.

The trial, which is only using wombs from deceased donors, has had success with three out of five uterus transplants.

“The transplantation of a uterus into a woman is a complex procedure that requires suppression of her immune system response,” transplant surgeon Andreas Tzakis, M.D., said in a statement. “Through this research, we aim to make these extraordinary events ordinary for the women who choose this option. We are grateful to the donor. Their generosity allowed our patient’s dream to come true and a new baby to be born.”

The Cleveland Clinic performed the first uterus transplant in 2016. It was a nine-hour procedure performed on a 26-year-old woman also using a uterus from a deceased donor. (Sweden reported the first successful birth following womb transplant in 2014.)

Women approved for the Cleveland Clinic study, have their eggs removed, fertilized with sperm, and frozen. After a donor uterus is found, it is transplanted into the patient’s pelvis within six to eight hours. One year after the transplant—the time it takes for the uterus to fully heal—the frozen embryos are implanted. Throughout the pregnancy, the mother is required to take anti-rejection drugs, is monitored, and has a monthly cervical biopsy to check for organ rejection. The transplanted uterus is later removed by hysterectomy after one to two babies are born.

Some have questioned whether the risky surgery is a realistic option for most women because of the rejection risk and the need to take immunosuppressant drugs for a transplant that, unlike a donated kidney or heart, isn't saving their life.

But while it may not be life-saving, the procedure would be life-enhancing, according to Dr. Tzakis. "Unlike any other transplants, they are 'ephemeral,'" he said in a statement announcing the study. "They are not intended to last for the duration of the recipient's life, but will be maintained for only as long as is necessary to produce one or two children."

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