In a groundbreaking achievement, a woman in the UK becomes the recipient of her sister’s womb in the nation’s first womb transplant.
Oxford surgeons performed the inaugural UK womb transplant, marking a significant advancement in reproductive medicine. The beneficiary, a 34-year-old, received the womb from her elder 40-year-old sister. Both parties have opted for anonymity.
The Journey to Success
Over 30 healthcare professionals engaged in this intricate operation that lasted 17 hours at the Churchill hospital. This monumental procedure took place in February, with the teams functioning in adjacent operating rooms. The donor, already a mother of two, had decided not to expand her family. Both siblings reside in England.
Professor Richard Smith, a leading gynaecological surgeon who was at the helm of the organ retrieval team, has dedicated 25 years to the study of womb transplantation. Expressing his emotions, Professor Smith dubbed the transplant a “resounding success”, admitting the entire team felt overwhelmed post-procedure.
Isabel Quiroga, the surgeon overseeing the implantation, shared the recipient’s joy: “She radiated happiness, harbouring hopes of not just one, but two children. We’re constantly tracking her progress, and her womb exhibits impeccable functionality.”
The Path Ahead
Two weeks after the surgery, the woman had her first menstruation. Like most transplant recipients, doctors prescribe her immunosuppressive medication to prevent tissue rejection. Because of the potential long-term health risks of these drugs, doctors will remove the womb after at most two successful pregnancies. The woman’s medical records show that she has a diagnosis of Type 1 Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) – a rare condition where the uterus is absent or underdeveloped, but the ovaries work normally. Before the transplant, fertility treatments produced eight embryos for her.
Before the surgery, counsellors provided both sisters with comprehensive counselling. The Human Tissue Authority approved their transplant. Womb Transplant UK, a charity, covered the NHS costs, estimated at £25,000.
Future Prospects and Challenges
Professor Smith, also chairing Womb Transplant UK, stated that the team is sanctioned to execute 15 womb transplants. This includes both live and deceased donors. However, an additional funding of £300,000 is required to facilitate all the procedures. Shedding light on the broader issue, he noted the staggering 15,000 women in the UK who grapple with Absolute Uterine Factor Infertility.
In 2014, a Swedish woman achieved a medical marvel, birthing a child post a womb transplant. To date, doctors have executed approximately 100 womb transplants worldwide, leading to 50 births, mainly in the US and Sweden. Although the UK received permission in 2015, “institutional delays” and the pandemic hindered its first transplant.
According to Womb Transplant UK, over 500 women have expressed interest in the programme, many with embryos stored or undergoing fertility treatment.
- The UK Womb Transplant Team announces its first successful operation. (2023, August 23). Womb Transplant UK. https://wombtransplantuk.org/the-uk-womb-transplant-team-announces-its-first-successful-operation