Story by Suzanna Larkin, T ’21 & Alex Lichtl, T’19
Doctors then waited seven months to ensure that the patient’s body wouldn’t reject the uterus before implanting the woman with her own egg. Ten days after implantation, pregnancy was confirmed and a baby girl was successfully born at 35 weeks and three days. The baby was delivered through a cesarean-hysterectomy operation, meaning that the transplanted uterus was removed after delivery.
In a medical first, a child was born from a uterus transplanted from a deceased donor. A team of transplant doctors under Dr. Dani Ejzenberg at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine successfully transplanted the uterus from a 45-year-old mother of three who died from stroke to a woman in her thirties who had been born without a uterus. Although eleven births using transplanted wombs from live donors have been successful in the past, all other transplant attempts using deceased donors have failed, including one done in the U.S. Cleveland Clinic in 2016.vSurgery for transplantation took place in September 2016, and lasted over ten hours. Dr. Ejzenberg’s patient became pregnant through in vitro fertilization seven months after the procedure and gave birth to a baby girl by cesarean section in December of 2017. During the C-section, the doctors also removed the uterus so that the mother would no longer need to take anti-rejection medication. Today, the mother is thrilled to have a child of her own and both mother and child are healthy. Two more transplants are planned under the Brazilian study and the Cleveland Clinic is continuing its efforts now that using a transplanted uterus from a deceased owner has been shown to be successful. Clinicians and experts say that this research will help to broaden the understanding of pregnancy and implantation. Despite this exciting step in increasing availability of uterus transplants, pregnant mothers still face risks related to immune-suppressing drugs needed to prevent rejection of the new organ, potentially high rates of organ rejection and the need for a C-section that includes the removal of the uterus. However, as this technology continues to be advanced, women will have greater options for pregnancies through this assisted reproductive technology.