Last spring, a team of scientists and doctors at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, performed the last of nine uterus transplants. It is now time to start the IVF treatments.
Professor Mats Brännström, project leader, says it is impossible to estimate the chances of a successful pregnancy:
‘Under normal circumstances, the likelihood of an embryo resulting in a pregnancy is about 25 per cent, so we might need quite a few attempts to succeed. Or we’ll get lucky on the first attempt. It’s impossible to say,’ he says.
Eight of the nine women who have received a new uterus within the research project have a syndrome called MRKH (Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome), which prevents the womb from developing during prenatal life but does not affect the ovaries. The syndrome occurs in one out of about 4500 women. The ninth woman lost her womb battling cancer.
‘One successful birth would be important evidence that the method is an available cure for this type of infertility.’
A similar attempt was made in Turkey last year when a fertilised egg was placed in a woman’s transplanted womb. Unfortunately, however, the woman ended up having a miscarriage. The Turkish woman is the only person besides the women in the Swedish research project who has had a uterus transplanted. In contrast to the participants in the Swedish project, however, the Turkish woman’s womb came from a brain-dead donor, who also donated a number of other organs to several different receivers.
According to media, uterus transplants are controversial as the Swedish method implies that organs are obtained from living donors. Critics believe that exposing living donors to such major surgery cannot be justified, since it is not a life-saving procedure.