Following the success of a procedure in Sweden, doctors in the U.K. have received the green light to begin the complex procedure of womb transplants, allowing countless women a second chance at fertility.
Doctors in the United Kingdom have been given the go-ahead to perform the country’s first ten womb transplants. According to a report from the BBC, the Health Research Authority has approved the transplants as a part of a clinical trial that will begin in the spring of 2016.
Womb transplants are a relatively new procedure, but they treat a common problem. Roughly one in every 7,000 women is born without a womb, while even more lose their wombs as a result of cancer. Doctors expect that the first baby born from a transplanted womb will arrive sometime in 2018.
According to Dr. Richard Smith, a gynecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, the procedure could help people who are unable to have their own children finally realize their dreams. For many couples, surrogacy or adoptions are the only ways they can start a family.
The procedure, Dr. Smith says, would take around six hours to complete. The wombs are usually sourced from donors who have deceased, but their heart has to have been kept beating. The recipient of the transplant will need to take medications that suppress the immune system, so it doesn’t attack the donated tissues. These drugs will need to be taken during the entire course of the pregnancy to make sure that the womb stays functional in the body.
Once the womb has been implanted into the recipient, they will be monitored for a year before having an embryo implanted. This embryo would be generated from the recipient’s own ova and sperm from her partner, administered using in vitro fertilization. The baby would hopefully be delivered eight months later by cesarean section. Couples will have the option of attempting two separate pregnancies before the donor womb is removed by a team of surgeons. After the pregnancy is successfully completed, removal of the donor womb will eliminate the need for medications to suppress the immune system for the rest of the recipient’s life.