Woman Born Without A Uterus Gives Birth After Major Transplant Breakthrough

“What I’ve learned emotionally, I do not have the words to describe,” one doctor said.

Now, with today's transplant technology, women can be born without a uterus and still deliver a baby. That's exactly what happened recently at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. The hospital just welcomed the first American baby whose birth was made possible by a uterus transplant.

Baylor doctors have been conducting a uterus transplant clinical trial with participants living with absolute uterine factor infertility, or AUI, which means these women either have no uterus or they have one that is nonfunctioning. This news is also a game-changer for women with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome and women with certain cancers.

Transplant breakthroughs have been making headlines at a blistering pace. In August, scientists in Cambridge, Mass., announced they had used gene-editing technology to make pig organs suitable for human transplant, and in October, a widow met the man who received her husband's face through a 60-hour operation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. 

The uterus recipient, who asked to remain anonymous, gave birth in a scheduled Caesarian section, with most of the multidisciplinary clinical trial team present for the joyous occasion. "I think everyone had tears in their eyes when the baby came out," Dr. Liza Johannesson, a Baylor OB/GYN and uterus transplant surgeon, told TIME. "I did for sure."

"We do transplants all day long," Dr. Giuliano Testa, the trial leader and the surgical chief of abdominal transplant for Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, explained. "This is not the same thing. I totally underestimated what this type of transplant does for these women. What I've learned emotionally, I do not have the words to describe."

"I've delivered a lot of babies, but this one was special," added Dr. Robert T. Gunby Jr., the obstetrician and gynecologist who delivered the baby. "When I started my career we didn't even have sonograms. Now we are putting in uteruses from someone else and getting a baby."

"Outside my own children, this is the most excited I've ever been about any baby being born," recalled Dr. Gregory J. McKenna, a Baylor transplant surgeon. "I just started to cry."

Already, 70 women have expressed interest in donating their uterus, Baylor said. The team will have transplanted 10 uteruses in this first trial. So far, eight have been transplanted, of which five are still viable. Another woman in the trial is already pregnant, as well. "When you donate a kidney, you do it to help someone live longer and get off dialysis," Dr. Testa said. "For these women, they are donating an experience."

Cover photo via Patricia Prudente on Unsplash


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