She Was Told She Would Never Get Pregnant. She Just Delivered a Baby!
Absolute uterine factor infertility (AUI) would mean that a woman could never get pregnant, till a woman not only got pregnant but also delivered a baby after a successful transplant of the uterus at the Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, USA.
She wanted a child, but her uterus was not allowing her to have one. She, like every seventh woman of child-bearing age in the US, suffered from a condition called Absolute Uterine Factor Infertility (AUI) – a condition where the uterus is either absent or is non -functional. But now, women like Susan* have a chance of experiencing one of the most beautiful phases of her life – motherhood. And this is thanks to the transplant of the uterus – something still in the experimental stages.
Transplant of the uterus
You might have heard about a kidney or a liver transplant. The healthy organ is obtained from live or a recently dead individual and is transplanted surgically into the body of the patient. Here, the condition of the patient is dire, and survival without the transplant is difficult.
What is different about the transplant of the uterus is that the donor is alive, and the procedure does not prolong the life of the patient. However, it improves her chances of becoming pregnant, something that can have an immensely positive effect on her mental health. And that is why the team at the Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas is carrying out this audacious task – to bring back hope in the lives of women who have been told they could never have children.
The hospital is conducting a trial on 10 women, and according to reports, at least three have failed. So, when Susan* gave birth recently, it was a very emotional experience for everyone, herself and her family, the donor, the doctors who performed the transplant, as well as the doctor who delivered the baby. And this makes the baby the first in the US to be born as a result of a successful transplant of the uterus.
Timing and teamwork made it possible
The donor was Taylor Siler, a 36-year-old registered nurse working in that area. She has two children. When she heard about the program, she decided to donate her uterus to Susan*. They have never met, but have exchanged letters. Taylor underwent a 5-hour-long surgery to take the uterus out. And imagine her joy when she got another letter from Susan declaring her pregnancy!
The doctors made sure everything was planned to perfection. Susan’s eggs were harvested and fertilised. The embryos were frozen, where they waited for their chance. The transplant was successfully done, and Susan had to take immunosuppressants. Otherwise, her body would reject the uterus.
After this, the obstetricians implanted the fertilised embryos, about a year or so after transplant was done. And all the hard work paid as Susan* went on to deliver the baby successfully.
There is still a long way to go, though…
Transplant of the uterus is not done routinely anywhere in the world yet. One of the reasons is the cost involved. Insurance does not cover it yet, so shelling about $500,000 for the procedure is not possible for everyone. The other reason is that couples go for adoption or surrogacy, but that is mainly because this procedure is not yet popular.
The doctors who worked with Susan* on this could tell how much all of this meant for her. So we hope that this procedure takes. As Kristin Posey Wallis, a nurse who worked closely with these patients told the TIME magazine, “for the girls who are diagnosed with infertility(particularly with AUI), there is now hope.”
*Name changed for anonymity.