First womb transplant takes place in UK after sister donates uterus

‘She was absolutely over the moon, very happy and is hoping that she can go on to have not one but two babies,’ lead surgeon says

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 23 August 2023 10:52 BST
Surgeons perform UK’s first womb transplant with sister-to-sister donation

A woman received a uterus donated from her sister in the first womb transplant carried out by surgeons in the UK.

Her 40-year-old sister was happy to donate her womb due to already having two children and not wanting more.

The womb recipient, who does not want to be named, had the transplant in an operation that went on for just over nine hours at Churchill Hospital in Oxford in early February.

Professor Richard Smith, one of the lead surgeons, said the experience had been “quite remarkable” as he explained the operation was a “massive success” and the plans for IVF are on track.

The 34-year-old recipient, who lives in England, has been keeping embryos due to having plans to go through IVF later on in the year.

Professor Smith, consultant gynaecological surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, added: “It was incredible. I think it was probably the most stressful week in my surgical career but also unbelievably positive. The donor and recipient are over the moon.”

He said he felt “emotional about it all”, adding that, during the “first consultation with the recipient post-op, we were all almost in tears”.

He is “really happy” the donor is “completely back to normal” after the operation, he added, explaining the surgery involved more than 30 staff.

“The recipient is, after her big op, doing really well on her immunosuppressive therapy and looking forward to hopefully having a baby,” Professor Smith explained.

The transplant cost of around £25,000 was paid for by donations to the charity Womb Transplant UK. Surgeons and medical staff involved in the transplant were not paid for their time.

Isabel Quiroga, another lead surgeon involved in the transplant, who is a consultant surgeon at the Oxford Transplant Centre, said she felt “extremely proud of what we’ve achieved and desperately happy for her”.

Ms Quiroga added: “She was absolutely over the moon, very happy and is hoping that she can go on to have not one but two babies. Her womb is functioning perfectly and we are monitoring her progress very closely.”

The woman who had the womb transplant was born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) – a rare condition which impacts around one in every 5,000 women.

Women who suffer from the condition have an underdeveloped vagina and a womb that is not fully developed or missing in some cases. The first sign of the condition is when a teenage girl does not have periods.

Nevertheless, their ovaries are intact and still function to produce eggs and female hormones, meaning they can potentially conceive via fertility treatment.

The transplant is expected to last for a maximum of five years before the womb is removed.

Dr Ranee Thakar, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told The Independent: “It is estimated that around one in 500 women cannot become pregnant or carry a pregnancy because they do not have a womb, or a womb that is unable to maintain a pregnancy.

“The success of the first UK womb transplant, and the growing number of successful transplants around the world has the potential to offer more women who previously thought that they would not be able to carry a pregnancy the potential to conceive and give birth in the future.”

A second UK womb transplant on another woman is scheduled to take place this autumn, with more patients in the preparation stages.

It comes after a recent study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg discovered womb transplants are a safe and successful way for individuals who do not have a functioning organ to cope with infertility.

Additional reporting by wires

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