Women born without a uterus—or who lost theirs to disease—may now have a shot at pregnancy thanks to a team of surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic who announced yesterday they performed the first uterus transplant in the United States! (Sweden reported the first successful birth following womb transplant in 2014, with a total of five healthy babies so far.)
The nine-hour procedure was performed on a 26-year-old woman using a uterus from a deceased donor. She is in stable condition, according to the Clinic, which began screening candidates for the transplants late last year as part of a clinical trial.
The research team—made up of transplant specialists, obstetricians and gynecologists, bioethicists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers—continues to screen other transplant candidates with Uterine Factor Infertility (UFI), an irreversible condition that effects 3 to 5 percent of women worldwide.
If a woman is approved for the study, she would first have to have eggs removed from her ovaries, like with in vitro, then freeze the embryos, which would be implanted 12 months after the transplant heals, if it's successful. Some have questioned whether the risky surgery is actually a realistic option for most women, however, since there's a risk of rejection, and participants would have to take potent immune-suppressing 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 The Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Andreas Tzakis. "Unlike any other transplants, they are 'ephemeral,'" he said last year 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."
Want to know more? Get details about the Cleveland Clinic's uterine transplant program on its website.