A mother in India has given her daughter an incredible—and medically unprecedented—gift.
Doctors announced a successful uterus transplant, the first of its kind in India, performed in the city of Pune, India. An unnamed 43-year-old mother donated her uterus to her 21-year-old daughter, who was born without a womb.
The mother hopes that the incredible gift will allow her daughter to experience natural childbirth. However, that remains to be seen; the 21-year-old will need to recover for at least a year before attempting impregnation through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“The patients are fine,” said Pune Galaxy Care Hospital’s medical director, Dr. Shailesh Puntambekar. “The surgery took nine and a half hours in total.”
“The procedure is difficult because multiple large arteries are to be joined there, and veins that are small and short,” said Puntambekar. “It is technically very tough.”
The world’s first successful uterine transplant was performed in 2014 by a team led by Dr. Mats Brännström of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.
Doctors aren’t sure whether the new womb will allow the woman to give birth.
While that’s certainly the goal, the transplant process isn’t always predictable. Typically, patients undergo a procedure prior to surgery to remove embryos, which are then fertilized and frozen. Those eggs are then reintroduced to the patient’s new uterus about a year after the transplant surgery.
Patients must take immunosuppressive drugs in order to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new uteruses. Those drugs can have serious side effects, and because of this, most patients have the donated wombs removed after they’ve given birth.
Even when the procedure is carefully controlled, success isn’t guaranteed. Only six babies have been born via donated uteruses, and two of the children were born to the same mother.
“We are responsible for the patient and fulfilling their dreams of becoming a mother, which was impossible for them until now,” Puntambekar said to CNN.
Currently, uterine transplants are only performed in a very small number of carefully selected cases, though there have been attempts in the United States, Germany, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Czech Republic, and Sweden.
The process is extremely difficult for surgeons, and the procedure itself is still in a clinical trial stage. That means that scientists are still collecting information from the trials to gauge the safety of this new form of childbirth. According to leading experts, the procedure won’t be widely available for at least 3-5 years.
Could uterine transplants become an option for trans women?
Some researchers have also speculated that the process could allow trans women to give birth. However, other aspects of pregnancy might create complications, and some doctors have raised ethical
For the time being, uterine transplants are only an option for mothers with damaged, diseased, or nonexistent wombs, and the procedure isn’t exactly a sure bet.
Still, it’s an incredible development for women who’ve been diagnosed as permanently infertile. India’s first uterine transplant was the 30th attempt in the world, and success rates seem to be improving.