Doctors in the UK have been given the green light to carry out the UK’s first 10 womb transplants, following successful results in Sweden.
The 10 transplants are to be part of a clinical trial set to take place in the spring of 2016. Over a hundred women have already been shortlisted as potential candidates for the trial, and if all goes according to plan, the first baby born from a womb transplant in the UK could arrive in 2017.
There is a selection criteria for the trial; women must be 38 or younger, have a long-term partner and they must be a healthy weight. Over 300 women have applied to take part in the trial with about 100 meeting the criteria.
Womb transplant procedures have been taking place in Sweden for over a year and have given thousands of women and families hope of being able to carry and give birth to their own children. Thousands of women are born without a womb, while others have complications or develop diseases such as cancer, making their womb an uninhabitable environment for childbearing. This procedure will give hope to those wanting children.
Dr Richard Smith is a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London and will be leading the transplant team during the trials after being involved with the womb transplant project for 19 years. “There is no doubting that, for many couples, childlessness is a disaster. Infertility is a difficult thing to treat for these women. Surrogacy is an option but it does not answer the deep desire that women have to carry their own baby.”
This medical marvel first took place in October 2014 when a 36 year old women, born without a uterus gave birth by caesarean section to a 1.8kg boy named Vincent after having a womb transplant. The women received a donated womb from a friend of hers in her 60s and despite being born prematurely, almost 32 weeks into pregnancy, the boy was healthy.
The procedure for undergoing a womb transplant is a long and technical process, possibly taking several years. A woman would first have to undergo IVF treatment to produce embryos which would then be frozen. A donor womb is then needed which would be implanted into the womb. Immunosuppressant drugs would be given to the women to prevent the foreign womb from being rejected and to stave off the action of antibodies. Once the baby is born and the womb is no longer needed, the womb can be removed which would prevent the woman from needing to be on the immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life.
In the case of the Swedish woman, a year after the womb transplant, an embryo was implanted and the successful pregnancy took place. Doctors would be hoping that the procedure would follow a similar pattern of success in the UK trials.