In late 2014, a 36-year-old Swiss woman made medical history when she gave birth to a healthy baby after undergoing a womb transplant.
For more than 15 years, researchers worldwide have been developing ways to artificially implant a womb or uterus. The woman, who asked that her identity remain anonymous, was born without a uterus, which rendered her unable to conceive. She agreed to participate in a clinical trial in Gothenburg, Sweden, from researchers at the University of Gothenburg.
The woman received the womb transplant from a 61-year-old family friend who had previously given birth twice. The researchers found that a donor woman’s age is not as important as fertilization with healthy eggs.
The new mom had intact ovaries, and doctors retrieved her eggs for in vitro fertilization. Doctors performed the uterine transplant and, following a recovery period, transplanted a fertilized embryo into her uterus. After the transplant, the woman took three medications to keep her immune system from rejecting the uterus. Now post-birth, the new mom will either have to continue the anti-rejection medications or have the womb surgically removed.
During the study, the University of Gothenburg researchers performed nine womb transplants. Two of the participants had to have the surgery reversed, one due to blood clots and the other because of a chronic infection. Two of the other study participants have since conceived and are on the verge of delivering healthy babies. This gives great hope to women who are unable to bear a baby due to uterine complications from cancer, injury, disease, or other causes.
Researchers in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and China are performing similar studies and procedures. In addition to the University of Gothenburg researchers’ work in transplanting wombs from living donors, the group is also studying the possibility of growing a womb in a laboratory. Doing so would reduce the rejection risks because the recipient’s DNA could be incorporated into the implanted womb.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Researchers in Sweden performed the world’s first successful womb transplant that resulted in a live birth.
- The womb was harvested from a 61-year-old family friend and transplanted into a 36-year-old Swedish woman who gave birth to a boy.
- Additional research into womb transplantation is being conducted in the United States and several other countries.