Last year, a Swedish woman made medical history when she gave birth to a child after receiving a womb transplant. Now, the new medical technology is coming to the United States.
Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic plan to offer uterus transplants to infertile women starting within the next few months, the New York Times reports.
It would be the first clinic in the U.S. to provide the transplants. The clinic says it will work with women who were born without a uterus or had it removed or damaged, according to the report. So far, eight U.S. women are seeking to have the procedure done at the Cleveland Clinic.
The article provides more details:
One, a 26-year-old with two adopted children, said she still wanted a chance to become pregnant and give birth.
“I crave that experience,” she said. “I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feet swelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.”
She traveled more than 1,000 miles to the clinic, paying her own way. She asked that her name and hometown be withheld to protect her family’s privacy.
She was 16 when medical tests, performed because she had not begun menstruating, found that she had ovaries but no uterus — a syndrome that affects about one in 4,500 newborn girls. She comes from a large family, she said, and always assumed that she would have children. The test results were devastating.
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“I know there will be people who don’t understand or agree,” she added. “But this is not a whim.”
The screening process for potential candidates is complex. According to the article, women will be screened for psychological disorders, relationship problems, and coercion, as well as for their physical health.
Doctors say there are risks to the procedure.
Women are required to take drugs that allow their bodies to accept the organ, and the drugs can affect their unborn babies when they do become pregnant, according to the article. Eventually, doctors say, they will remove the uterus from the woman again so that she does not have to keep taking the anti-rejection drugs.
The surgery itself is complex and risky. Then, after receiving the transplant, the procedure also requires that women go through in vitro fertilization and then give birth by caesarean section, according to the article.
Since last fall, three other Swedish women have given birth after receiving uterus transplants. All were born prematurely. Five more are pregnant, according to the article. LifeNews reported about the first birth last September.
Ethicists are conflicted about the nature of uterus transplants.
Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, who is leading the project at the Cleveland Clinic, believes uterus transplants – as opposed to surrogacy — are a better option for infertile women.
“You create a class of people who rent their uterus, rent their body, for reproduction,” he said of surrogacy. “It has some gravity. It possibly exploits women.”
Bioethics attorney Wesley J. Smith, however, says he is concerned about the implications of the transplant procedure.
Writing at LifeNews.com, Smith said:
Uterus transplants are “consumerist” procedures–as distinguished from “medical”–performed at sometimes great expense to enable lifestyle choices or help make dreams come true. As such, I believe they should be looked at differently than the usual healthcare.
[Unlike a kidney or heart transplant], transplanting a uterus is wholly elective, obviously performed to allow a woman to gestate and give birth. In other words, she has a bodily dysfunction, but is not sick. Indeed, her physical health is put at peril from the procedure, whereas doing nothing will not endanger her life or hurt her health. And given that the child is delivered early, there could be some risk to the baby.
Tzakis says the Cleveland Clinic will test the procedure before deciding whether to make it readily available in the United States.