Swedish Doctors Pull Off 9 Womb Transplants

But procedure is dangerous for donors, say critics

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 13, 2014 7:35 AM CST

(Newser) – A team of Swedish doctors may have just pulled off the first successful womb transplant in history—or even the first nine. In a controversial new procedure, nine women have successfully received wombs from living relatives since September 2012, the doctor at the helm of the surgeries has revealed. The wombs are not connected to the women's fallopian tubes, so they still can't get pregnant the old-fashioned way, but they've had embryos created from their own eggs via in-vitro fertilization. Doctors will soon attempt to implant those embryos in their new uteri, the AP reports, and the wombs will be removed after a maximum of two pregnancies, so that the women can stop taking side-effect-ridden anti-rejection drugs.

There have been two previous womb transplant attempts, one in Turkey and one in Saudi Arabia, but neither produced a baby. "This is a new kind of surgery," says lead doctor Mats Brannstrom. "We have no textbook to look at." And in an optimistic sign, many women got their periods as soon as six weeks after the transplant, says Brannstrom. But detractors say the method is too dangerous for live donors (in this case, all mothers or other female relatives of the women), given the number of adjacent blood vessels that must be removed to maintain blood flow. "Mats has done something amazing," says the head of a parallel UK effort that will use only dead or dying donors. "But we are wary of that approach."

The Swedish research team practices its womb transplant operation at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden, April 4, 2012.   (AP Photo/University of Goteborg, Johan Wingborg)
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