It's official: Women with a condition known as uterine factor infertility (UFI) will soon be eligible for a uterus transplant in the United States, allowing them to the opportunity to get pregnant.
UFI impacts women who have had their uterus removed due to a hysterectomy, or have had it damaged due to an infection or injury. There are also some women that are born without a uterus, a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which affects approximately 1 in 4,500 women in the U.S. And none of these women can ever get pregnant, because, as we all should know by now, you need a healthy uterus to carry a baby.
Now the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is poised to become the first in the U.S. to offer a uterus transplant for infertile women. So far Sweden is the only country to have successfully completed uterus procedures and have had four out of nine women given birth following the transplant. All of the babies were born premature but healthy. Unlike the U.S. though, Sweden used live donors. And the women who receive these transplants wouldn't be able to conceive naturally since their fallopian tubes won't be connected to the donor uterus. They would have to undergo IVF procedures.
And, in case you were wondering, the transplants are temporary. Once the woman has had one or two children (the maximum allowed) with the donor uterus, she would have surgery to remove it so that she wouldn't have to take the anti-rejection drugs her whole life.
Obviously, there are many questions that arise from an otherwise healthy person voluntarily choosing to receive another person's reproductive organ when they don't really "need" it to survive. Transplant surgery is complicated and involves lots of blood vessels. The prospective mother would also have to take anti-rejection drugs throughout the course of her pregnancy and afterwards.
While anti-rejection drugs have been proven safe during pregnancy and many women who had other types of transplants have successfully taken them throughout gestation, she would still have to undergo another extensive surgery to remove the donated uterus.
Still, there are many infertile women that are eager to experience the physical experience of pregnancy who would prefer this to the adoption or surrogacy route. Dr. Tommaso Falcone, Chair of the Women's Health Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, writes on the clinic's website, "Women who are coping with UFI have few existing options. Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons."
The Cleveland Clinic is still in the trial stages and would have to undergo the procedure successfully 10 times before deciding to expand the program. According to the New York Times, eight woman are currently undergoing the extensive screening process.