TWO women have become the first to give birth using wombs donated by their own mothers, in a breakthrough that could have a “massive impact” on surrogacy.
The babies, both boys, were delivered by caesarean section a month ago in Sweden and are doing well with their mothers at home.
The news brings fresh hope to around 15,000 women in the UK who want children but were born without a womb or have had it removed.
Nine women, including the two mothers, have been given womb transplants – seven of which have been successful.
Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said: “That’s a very good success rate for a new surgical procedure. If it carries on like this, it may have a massive impact on things like surrogacy.”
Henrik Hagberg, a professor in foetal medicine at King’s College London, who was at the first birth, praised the grandmothers who had hysterectomies in order to donate wombs to their daughters.
He said: “It is an absolutely extraordinary gift. The mothers were still very much doubting whether things would really go well. You don’t take anything for granted when you have experienced all of the problems they have been through.”
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The first child, who weighed 5lb 8oz, was born to a 29-year-old Swede who lacked a womb at birth. The mother of the second boy, who weighed in at 5lb 15oz, is 34 and had her womb removed when she was treated for cancer. Both babies were delivered around a month early.
They join another history-making boy named Vincent who was born in September as part of the Gothenburg University project. He was the first in the world to be born from a womb transplant and was carried in a uterus from an unrelated donor. Four of the seven women with successful transplants have become pregnant and three have given birth.
Richard Smith, head of charity Womb Transplant UK, is gearing up to start similar operations, using wombs from dead donors. He says the first could be carried out as soon as next summer.
Professor Hagberg believes the operation in which the donor’s womb is removed can be reduced from the current ten hours – making the procedure more attractive.
“I’m an optimist. I’m sure this is something for the future,” he said. “It will be very exciting to see what happens in Britain and what they will be able to do using wombs from brain-dead donors.”
Professor Mats Brännström, who led the Swedish team, has spent 15 years perfecting the complex surgical techniques needed for transplant. He believes Mr Smith’s project will be successful and predicts the first UK womb transplant baby will be born three years from now.
Dagan Wells, an Oxford University fertility doctor, said: “The numbers are still small and we probably don’t have a good handle on the true safety or how often it will be successful.But from the data available, we can say that it is looking pretty good.”
Dr Wells added: “It is a pretty radical thing to undergo but the fact that some women have done it, even when it is in this experimental phase, really does emphasise how important it is for some women to carry their own child. I am not saying this is the way everyone should go but for some people, it clearly is very important.”
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