Thursday, October 1, 2015

Womb transplants

Doctors have been granted approval to carry out the first 10 womb transplants in the UK.
They hope to carry out the procedure - as part of a clinical trial - launching in the spring of 2016

Around one in 7,000 women are born without a functioning womb.

In some conditions such as Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser syndrome for example, people may not have a vagina, cervix or womb.

In other cases women may have wombs removed after surgery for cancer.

Not all will be eligible or will want this procedure.

But Womb Transplant UK, the organisation set to carry out the operations in the UK, says it could provide an alternative to adoption or surrogacy...

Women must also have healthy ovaries, capable of producing eggs...

Experts in the UK say wombs will be donated from women who are "brain-dead" but whose hearts are kept beating.

This is different to procedures that have already taken place in Sweden where live donors have been involved.

Specialists say this decision has been taken in the UK because the operation to remove a womb carries its own risks...

Any woman considering this procedure will need to weigh up the risks of complex surgery and the anaesthetic. IVF is not risk-free either.

She will also need to think about the potential side-effects of taking immunosuppressant drugs, for instance.

These have been linked to an increased chance of infections, osteoporosis and in some cases cancer.

Experts say they can minimise this by removing the womb once it is no longer needed...

The first well-documented human attempt took place in 2000 when doctors in Saudi Arabia transplanted a womb from a living donor to a young woman.

Initially it was hailed as a medical breakthrough but the success was short-lived.

Less than four months later the organ had to be removed when the transplanted tissue began to die as a result of a blood supply failure. The next challenge - a pregnancy - was never attempted.

Womb transplants have also been attempted in Turkey and other countries.

It was in 2014 that a major turning point came - in a medical first, a woman in Sweden gave birth to a baby boy using a transplanted womb.

The 36-year-old, who was born without a uterus, gave birth by Caesarean section to a boy named Vincent after receiving a womb donated by a family friend.

A further three babies have since been born in Sweden using transplanted wombs.

Another question is whether the drugs could be harmful to the developing foetus.

Specialists at Womb Transplant UK say when used at the right doses this is unlikely to be a problem, building on the success of pregnancies involving anti-rejection drugs for other reasons.
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