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UK surgeons successfully transplant woman with her sister's womb: 'The whole thing was emotional'

UK surgeons conducted a womb transplant between two sisters, generating hope for many other women suffering from infertility.

UK surgeons successfully transplant woman with her sister's womb: 'The whole thing was emotional'
Cover Image Source: YouTube/ BBC News

Recent advancements in science have both been humbling and mind-boggling for humans. It shows how much power humans, with their intellect, can wield and the responsibility that is on their shoulders to direct it toward a positive tangent. This is what surgeons in Oxford have achieved by conducting the first-ever womb transplant in the UK, reports BBC. This is a huge moment for the medical community and women all over the world, as it opens a new door of opportunity when it comes to infertility. It is a first for the UK, but such procedures have been previously conducted in countries like the US, Sweden, Turkey, India, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Germany and France.

Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Leah Kelley
Representative Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by Leah Kelley

The pair on which the womb transplant procedure occurred are sisters. They wanted to remain anonymous. The recipient was 34 years of age at the time of the transplant. Both she and her sister have recovered well from the surgery. The recipient already has several embryos in storage, which will be transferred into the womb with another procedure. The whole operation was conducted by a team of 30 medical professionals in adjoining theatres of the Churchill Hospital in February.



 

The donor was 40 years old at the time of surgery and was already a mother of two children. She felt her family was complete and wholeheartedly agreed to the transplant. Both sisters went through counseling sessions. The surgeons were divided into two teams. Prof Richard Smith, the gynecological surgeon, led the organ retrieval team. He was glad to be a part of the procedure, having spent 25 years researching womb transplantation. In his interview with BBC, he proudly relayed that the entire process was a "massive success." Smith added in his interview, "The whole thing was emotional. I think we were all a bit tearful afterward."



 

The second team was responsible for implanting the womb in the recipient's body system. This team was led by transplant surgeon, Isabel Quiroga. For her, the biggest win was the happiness on her patient's face, as she said, "She was absolutely over the moon, very happy and is hoping that she can go on to have not one but two babies. Her womb is functioning perfectly and we are monitoring her progress very closely."

The patient got her period two weeks after the surgery. Similar to typical transplant surgery. In this case, the recipient also needs to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the organ. Since these drugs suppress the immunity within the body system, they pose a long-term risk, therefore, they will take out the uterus after she has undergone a maximum of two pregnancies.



 

The recipient had trouble getting pregnant because she suffered from Type 1 Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) since birth. In this condition, the uterus is either absent or underdeveloped to be of viable use in pregnancy. Before the transplant, she, along with her husband, underwent fertility treatment and garnered 8 embryos, which are presently in storage. Going through fertility treatment is a prerequisite for this transplant. The NHS cost amounting to £25,000 (approximately $31,600) was paid by Womb Transplant UK.



 

Prof Richard Smith is banking on more donations to further perform such transplants. By his estimate, he would need £300,000 (about $380,000) to perform 15 transplants he has been authorized to conduct. But he has confidence he will be able to do that, seeing the enthusiasm and interest in this transplant, where almost 30 staff members participated for free. This transplant is a beacon of hope for women who have lost their capacity to become pregnant due to conditions like cancer and other abnormalities.

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