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Story to Watch: Womb Transplants

A story has been circulating since January 13, 2014 about womb transplants in Sweden. Here's what we know:

Nine women in Sweden now have wombs in their once barren bellies.

Who put what where?
The wombs were transplanted by doctors in a new procedure meant to allow the women to get pregnant. The women were either born without wombs, or lost them due to cancer. The procedures began in 2012, so up to this point, 9 women total have received new wombs.

How exactly does one obtain a womb?
Donation by family member, or organ donors whose injuries or illness is fatal.

Does it work like any other womb after it has been transplanted?
Not exactly. The womb isn't connected to the fallopian tubes, so the "traditional" method of impregnation won't work. IVF will be necessary, but current womb recipients are women who can still make eggs. That means the baby can be the product of a couples egg and sperm, rather than relying on a donor.

Is Sweden the first country to try a womb transplant?
Nope—the first transplant was done in Saudi Arabia in 2000, but the womb had to be removed three months later due to a blood clot. Turkish doctors made a successful transplant in 2013, and the woman even got pregnant, but lost the baby two months later. Doctors in the UK are currently working toward raising the funds to do five transplants of their own.

Why not hire a surrogate?
Well, for one, surrogacy is illegal in Sweden (which is crazy, because isn't practically everything legal in Sweden?). But another allure of the womb transplant procedure, is that wannabe-mommies get to carry their own child. So, for those desperate to DIY, or who can't legally pursue surrogacy, womb transplants may be the answer.

All these articles talk about the "ethical concerns". What are they?
The main issue that comes up again and again, is that a womb transplant isn't a "life-saving" procedure. Keeping that in mind and looking at the risks involved—infection, rejection of the womb, the small chances of carrying full-term—make a compelling argument against putting a woman at risk for what at this point is a lottery of luck. But, what these women are doing will likely grow this area of study by leaps and bounds, and potentially make it possible for once barren women to have their own children.

When will a baby from a transplanted womb be born?
None of the women are pregnant—yet. The womb and the woman's body need time, about a year, to be ready for IVF. This time next year, we can expect to read about successful IVF's. Nine months after that, maybe we'll see some birth announcements.

In Missouri, adoption and surrogacy are both options. If you have questions about growing your family, contact our adoption and surrogacy specialists.