A team of surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic just performed the nation's first uterus transplant. It took the team nine hours to transplant the uterus from a deceased patient to a 26-year-old woman on Wednesday.
Women with Uterine Factor Infertility (UFI)—an irreversible condition that affects three to five percent of women—can now be screened to be considered for one of 10 uterine transplants in the Cleveland Clinic's research study. Women with UFI can't carry a pregnancy because they were either born without a uterus, have had it removed, or their uterus no longer functions. And the possibility of a uterus transplant means infertile women have the chance to become moms, says Andrew J. Satin, M.D., the director of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins, who wasn't involved in the research. (Related: How Long Can You Really Wait to Have a Baby?)
There have already been several successful births from transplanted uteri (yes, that's actually a word) in Sweden, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Pretty amazing, right? Yay for science.
How it works: If you're eligible, some of your eggs are removed and fertilized with sperm to create embryos (which are then frozen) before the transplant. About a year later, once the transplanted uterus is healed, the embryos are inserted one at a time and (as long as the pregnancy goes well) the baby is delivered nine months later via C-section. The transplants aren't life-long, and must be removed or left to disintegrate after one or two healthy babies are born, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
It's still an experimental procedure, says Satin. But it's a chance for these women—who previously had to use a surrogate or adoption—to carry their own baby. (Even if you don't have UFI, it's wise to know the Essential Facts About Fetility and Infertility.)
UPDATE 3/9: Lindsey, the woman who received the transplant, developed an unspecified serious complication and had to have the uterus surgically removed on Tuesday, according to Eileen Sheil, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic, as reported by the New York Times. According to Sheil, the patient is recovering well from the second operation and pathologists are analyzing the organ to determine what went wrong with the transplant.
Want to know more about uterus transplants? Check out the infographic from the Cleveland Clinic below.