First Successful Birth by Womb Transplant in Sweden

Professor Mats Brannstrom (C), head of a medical team which performed its first uterus transplant on a patient, attends a news conference about the procedure at the Sahlgreska University Hospital in Gothenburg. Adam Ihse/Reuters

A 36-year-old Swedish woman born without a uterus made medical history when she gave birth by womb transplant in late September. The woman received a womb donation from a friend who had undergone menopause several years earlier, the BBC reports.

The baby was born prematurely, just 32 weeks into the pregnancy, and weighed 3.9 lb (1.8 kg). His parents christened him Vincent, a name that means ‘to conquer.’ “As soon as I felt this perfect baby boy on my chest, I had tears of happiness and enormous relief,” the woman told the Associated Press Saturday. “I felt like a mother the first time I touched my baby and was amazed that we finally did it." Vincent was delivered via cesarean section and was kept in the hospital for ten days before being released.

The mother, who preferred not to disclose her identity, learned that she didn’t have a uterus at age 15 but that she still had functioning ovaries. A decade later she discovered that womb transplant research was being conducted at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm by Dr. Mats Brannstrom, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She then signed up for research without thinking twice.

For the procedure, she received a womb transplant from a friend, 61, who had previously given birth to two sons. She is now Vincent’s godmother.

The woman underwent in vitro fertilization and produced 11 frozen embryos, then had the womb transplant with the help of researchers at the University of Gothenberg, according to BBC. One year later, researchers inserted one of the embryos into the woman’s womb, and she was then able to conceive. Three separate medications had to be administered so that the womb wouldn’t be rejected.

Upon birth, the baby’s heart rate was abnormal due to complications from pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects some mothers during pregnancy. Now, the baby and the mother are both reportedly healthy.

“It was a pretty tough journey over the years, but we now have the most amazing baby,” said the father, who wished to remain anonymous, in an interview with Associated Press on Saturday. The couple aren’t sure whether they will try again and have a second child, but they said they’d be willing to undergo the procedure again.

Surgeons said it had taken over ten years of surgical training and research on animals for the procedure to be viable. One of the gynaecological surgeons on the team, Liza Johannesson, said that the revolutionary procedure would “give hope to those women and men who thought they would never have a child, that thought they were out of hope.” The results of the research will be detailed soon in the Lancet medical journal.

The surgical team is reportedly working on the procedure with eight other couples, and Dr. Brannstrom confirmed that two of those pregnancies are at least 25 weeks along. Depending on whether or not further results are successful, it will be determined whether or not the procedure is completely safe and effective. It could potentially provide viable options to women who previously couldn’t conceive.

Two other medical teams had tried womb transplants, in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, several years back. One ended in a miscarriage, and the other had to be removed, due to a disease, after three months. 

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