Woman gives birth with transplanted uterus in Sweden | News | DW | 04.10.2014
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Woman gives birth with transplanted uterus in Sweden

A woman in Sweden has given birth for the first time after she underwent a womb transplant. The breakthrough follows more than a decade of research by a team at the University of Gothenburg.

In a medical first, the baby boy was delivered prematurely but healthy by caesarian section in September, according to research published Saturday by British medical journal The Lancet.

"The baby is fantastic," said Dr. Mats Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm IVF, who led the research. "But it is even better to see the joy in the parents and how happy he made them."

The 36-year-old mother, whose identity has not been disclosed, was born with healthy ovaries but without a uterus. She underwent the transplant procedure after receiving a womb donated by a 61-year-old family friend.

The breakthrough birth is the result of more than a decade of research, Brannstrom said, adding that it was "still sinking in that we have actually done it."

World first

The woman was one of nine participants to undergo a womb transplant as part of an experimental study conducted by the university's researchers. Complications forced Brannstrom and his colleagues to remove the organs from two of the women.

In the 36-year-old's case, doctors waited to see that the womb was working well before they transferred a single embryo created in a lab dish using the woman's eggs and her husband's sperm. However, 32 weeks into the 40-week gestation period, the mother developed high blood pressure and the fetus started showing signs of stress and an abnormal heart rate, prompting doctors to order a caesarian.

The little boy weighed 1.78 kilograms (3.9 pounds) - normal for a baby born at such a point in the pregnancy - and was released from the hospital 10 days after birth.

"He's no different from any other child, but he will have a good story to tell," the father said. "One day he can look at the newspaper articles about how he was born and know that he was the first in the world" to be born this way.

A real alternative?

There have only been two previous attempts to transplant a womb - in Saudi Arabia and Turkey - but both failed to result in live births. Other medical teams in Britain, France, Japan and elsewhere also have plans to try similar operations, but using the wombs from donors who have just died, rather than from living women.

The transplant procedure, which is currently expensive and comes with significant risks, could well open up an alternative option for women who are unable to have children because they lost a uterus to cancer or were born without one.

"Most couples will do just about anything to have a baby. We need to see this happen a little bit more and see how safe it is," Dr. Nanette Santoro, obstetrics chief at the University of Colorado in Denver, United States, told the news agency Associated Press.

"It's not clear to me how many women would choose this, because it seems pretty arduous."

nm/mkg (AFP, AP)

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