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The First Baby Born Using a Transplanted Uterus from a Deceased Donor
How the field of uterine donation has been opened up by the first successful use of a uterus from a deceased donor
March 11, 2019
Amazing reports in uterine fertility have recently come out of Brazil where the first child has been born using a uterus transplant from a deceased donor. This development has the potential to completely change the field of uterine fertility and open previously closed doors for women with uterine infertility. There’s still more work to be done, but for now let’s take a look at what we know.
What we knew
Before this study, released just before Christmas of last year, by Dr. Dani Ejzenberg it was thought only live donation could produce viable options for women with uterine infertility. 1 in 500 women who struggle with infertility experience infertility as a result of anomalies existing in their uterus for any number of reasons. Before, the only options for these women were surrogacy or adoption. In 2014, however, Swedish doctors successfully saw the birth of a healthy child using a uterus transplant. Since then, 39 uterus transplants have been performed all over the world with 11 of those resulting in live births.
The necessity for live donors, however, has complicated things. Live donors are typically rare. Most live donations come from committed family members or other loved ones. The number of people willing to donate organs at the event of their death, however, is much higher. Until Dr. Ejzenberg’s study, however, all 10 other uterus transplants using a deceased donor have been unsuccessful for one reason or another to produce a normal, healthy live birth.
What we know now
In 2016, a 32 year old Brazilian woman without her own uterus as a result of MRKH syndrome underwent an 11 hour procedure that connected a uterus harvested from a deceased 45 year old donor to her veins, arteries, ligaments and vaginal canal. 5 months post-op, she showed no signs of rejection, and 2 months later IVF fertilized eggs that had been cryopreserved before she underwent transplant were introduced to her new uterus.
The patient was reported to have not experienced any issued during her 35 week pregnancy. At the end of 35 weeks, a healthy, 6 pound baby girl was born via cesarean. The transplanted uterus was also removed during the birth and showed no signs of anomaly.
At the time the report was written, the child was 7 months old, weighed 15 pounds, and appeared to be perfectly healthy.
What we still need to know
Given the relatively small number of uterus transplants, from both living and deceased donors, the major outcomes and possible side effects have yet to be fully studied and understood. Moreover, the inability to compare the potential differences between living and deceased donors means doctors still have some way to go before all the answers are known in regard to uterus transplants. These procedures are still very risky, involving major surgery and the use of long courses of immunosuppressants, which both carry their own side effects and risks. But as the science develops and doctors across the globe are able to compare notes and help pave the way for the future, these risks will be minimized, and these questions will be answered.
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