First ever UK womb transplants get go-ahead

It will give some infertile women the chance to carry their own baby. Picture: Jon Savage
It will give some infertile women the chance to carry their own baby. Picture: Jon Savage
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Plans for the UK’s first womb transplant have been hailed by experts who believe it could be available in Scotland if a landmark clinical trial is successful.

After the birth of a healthy baby boy in Sweden last year, approval was granted by a special committee at Imperial College London for ten British women to undergo the procedure, and the first baby could arrive as soon as 2017.

Infertility is a difficult thing to treat for these women. Surrogacy is an option but it does not answer the deep desire that women have to carry their own baby.

Dr Richard Smith

A new clinical trial will launch in the spring where women will receive a womb from a donor who is classed as brain dead but whose heart is kept beating.

Richard Anderson, professor of clinical reproductive science at Edinburgh University, said: “I think it is a very exciting development and I would welcome it.

“It is a pretty devastating diagnosis [being born without a womb] and much more common than people think; around one in 5,000 women have it.

“It is a phenomenal achievement to get it right and the experts in Sweden have been working on this for a long time.”

Prof Anderson said the procedure could be available in Scotland but cautioned that the operation was complex and more work needed to be done to ensure the facilities and expertise needed were available. The women selected for the trial must all meet strict criteria, which includes being 38 or under, having a long-term partner and being a healthy weight.

Embryos will be created and frozen using each woman’s eggs and sperm from her partner then the patients will undergo a six-hour transplant.

After 12 months on immunosuppressant drugs and close monitoring, each woman will be implanted with an embryo.

Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, said: “Infertility is a difficult thing to treat. Surrogacy is an option but it does not answer the deep desire women have to carry their own baby.”

Any baby would be delivered by Caesarean to reduce the stress on the donor womb.

Susan Seenan, chief executive of Infertility Network UK said: “Transplants will only benefit a few women but this breakthrough is to be welcomed.”