WATCH: In the first womb transplant, a woman successfully donates her uterus to her younger sister

Illustration file image.

Illustration file image.

Published Sep 1, 2023


Doctors in the UK performed that country’s first womb transplant, making medical history.

In a ground-breaking procedure, doctors in Oxford successfully transplanted a sister’s womb to her 34-year-old sibling, according to local media reports.

With two children already under her care and no desire for more, her 40-year-old sister was delighted to donate her womb.

According to “The Independent”, the womb recipient underwent the transplant in a procedure that took place at The Clementine Churchill Hospital, a teaching hospital in Sudbury Hill, and lasted little over nine hours.

Al Jazeera reported that one of the leading surgeons, Professor Richard Smith, described the experience as “quite remarkable” and stated the procedure had been a “massive success” with the IVF plans on track.

The recipient, a 34-year-old woman from England, had been holding onto the embryos because she intended to use IVF later this year.

In the same interview, Smith – who is also a consultant gynaecological surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – added that it was likely the most stressful week of his surgical career, but it was also incredibly rewarding.

The BBC reports that he admitted to feeling emotional about the whole thing and added that during the first post-op session with the recipient, we were all on the verge of tears.

He continued, saying the surgery required more than 30 staff members, and expressed his happiness that the donor had fully recovered and (was) back to normal.

According to the professor, the patient was recovering well from her major surgery, responding well to her immuno-suppressive medicine and eagerly anticipating becoming pregnant.

“The Guardian” states that the approximately £25 000 (about R590 000) cost of the transplant was covered by contributions to the non-profit Womb Transplant UK.

The medical professionals who performed the transplant, including the surgeons, were not compensated.

Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH), an uncommon disease affecting one in 5 000 women, was present at birth in the woman who underwent the womb transplant.

Women with MRKH have an undeveloped vagina and an absent or underdeveloped womb. Teenage girls who stop having periods are the first to show symptoms of the disease.

However, because their ovaries are still functional and generate eggs and female hormones, it may be possible to conceive using fertility treatment.

The woman had two cycles of fertility stimulation to develop eggs, followed by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to make embryos, before receiving her sister’s womb.

According to the “Daily Mail”, five embryos were frozen after reaching the blastocyst stage, which indicates that they have a good chance of succeeding in IVF, in preparation for the patient’s treatment at the Lister fertility clinic in central London later this year.

Smith stated that the transplanted womb was functioning normally and that IVF plans were on track.

To prevent her body from rejecting the donor organ, the woman will need to take immuno-suppressant medications throughout any subsequent pregnancies.

The womb is often absent or incompletely developed in women who have the syndrome, and their vagina is undeveloped. Teenage girls who stop having periods are the first to show symptoms of the disease.

However, because their ovaries are still functional and generate eggs and female hormones, women may still be able to conceive with the help of fertility treatments.

Before the womb is removed, the transplant is anticipated to last for a maximum of five years.

This spring, a second womb transplant in the UK is planned for a different woman, with other patients in the planning phases.

It occurs in response to a recent study by scientists at the University of Gothenburg that revealed womb transplants were a successful and safe option for those without a functioning organ to deal with infertility.