Doctors in the UK have been given approval to carry out the first womb transplants, bringing hope to thousands of women.
The announcement comes following successful womb transplants in Sweden, and it is expected, if successful, that the first children born as a result of the transplants could arrive in 2018. Approved by the Health Research Authority, this news could be of vital significance for those who previously thought they would be unable to have children of their own.
Hope for those living without a womb
In the UK alone, almost 1 in every 5,000 women is born without a womb. Others may have had their wombs removed as a result of illnesses such as cancer, rendering many women unable to bear children. Whilst surrogacy and adoption are options for couples who desire children, womb transplant could offer hope to those who want the chance to bear their own children.
Work on the project has been ongoing for almost 19 years, with many road blocks along the way. Speaking to the Today programme on Radio 4, Dr Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London explained, “over the years I have quite a lot of crisis with this project… but when you meet the women who have been born without a uterus, or who have had their uterus removed for one reason or another, this is really heart-rending stuff and that is what has kept us going”.
The trial is being undertaken by Womb Transplant UK, a self-funded organisation which also receives support from public donations. Whilst each procedure costs £50,000, the women undergoing this treatment will not have to cover this cost themselves.
About the treatment
The procedure is a complicated one, taking six hours to complete. The donated womb would come from a dead woman and will require the patient to take immunosuppressants both after the transplant and throughout the pregnancy in order to prevent rejection. After a year, IVF procedures will be used in order to implant an embryo, whilst a caesarean will be used to deliver the baby at 8 months. Couples will be allowed two attempts at pregnancy before the womb is removed, whilst the womb will also be removed when no longer needed to avoid the need for continuing course of immunosuppresants.
As with most transplant procedures, ethical concerns have already been raised, with many critical of the treatment. While we wait to find out if the treatment is even successful in the UK, the birth of a baby boy in Sweden as a result of a transplant in October 2014, provides hope that carrying a child could soon be a reality for many prospective parents.
If you would like more information on womb transplants, or to donate to the cause, you can visit the Womb Transplant UK website for more information.