Childbirth, if you’re viable, is a joyous thing. You have sex, wait for the magic to happen, and nine months later, out comes your new pride and joy. But if you’re a woman lucky enough to have a hospitable uterus, you will soon be able to do something else with it: give it away, if you wish.
Getting a uterus transplant may seem like some futuristic science, but it currently exists. In fact, in Sweden, the procedure has been successful nine times, all with live donors. This is pretty good news for women with an inhospitable environment, or those 1 in 12,000 women (with XX chromosome) who suffer from the condition Müllerian agenesis, which means, generally speaking, you’re born without a uterus.
But it’s not an easy road. Women who elect to have a transplant must first cultivate their own eggs (at least 10) and have them frozen for later in vitro fertilization. This would also require you to take in vitro fertilization hormones prior to even getting the transplant. Once the transplant occurs, it is temporary, and would only be viable for one to two pregnancies. And women with the procedure are only able to deliver via c-section, to minimize the strain on the vagina. What’s more, you cannot begin trying to conceive until a year post-surgery – meanwhile you would be taking anti-rejection medication to ensure the uterus remained viable, the side effects of which are unknown.
And even after all of this preparation, there are no guarantees for success. Even with nine successful transplants in Sweden, only four have resulted in pregnancy. Two, while initially successful, were removed – one due to a blood clot, the other infection.
But science is persistent, and in Cleveland, a team of doctors is planning to make transplanted uteri an available option. Unlike Sweden, these Cleveland doctors are planning to use uteri from deceased patients who are organ donors.
So, should you update your donor card yet? No. It’s most certainly not a readily available option yet. Professor Mats Brannstrom, the leader behind the Uterus Transplantation Team at the University of Gothenburg, said in 2014 that it won’t become a routine surgery for “many years yet.” That said, it’s a scientific breakthrough that is being studied in North America and Sweden. And that’s pretty hopeful for anyone who might be able to benefit from it.