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After European Success, Uterus Transplants Come To America

Over the next few months, doctors from the Cleveland Clinic plan on performing a breakthrough procedure in which a Uterus will be transplanted into the womb of a woman who lacks one. The operation will be the first of its kind to ever take place in the United States.

The transplant procedure is a new frontier for surgeons, and only recently have doctors in Sweden and the United Kingdom approved womb transplant research.

One of the biggest concerns, and the greatest creator of controversy, is the possibility for implanted wombs to be rejected by the body. These types of surgeries are considered “high risk”, as not only could the health of the woman be at stake, the fetus — if one is able to develop — will be exposed to the drugs that reduce the risk of rejection.

Still, the benefits outweigh the risk to many women who have experienced infertility. A 26-year-old woman, one who has applied for the Cleveland Clinic’s screening process, was quoted by The New York Times as saying she “craves” the experience of being pregnant. “I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feetswelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.”

The woman, who has two adopted children, traveled more than 1,000 miles to the clinic on her own dime.

Statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that 1 in 4,500 U.S. women are born without a uterus. The condition is known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, and though the cause is unknown, the NIH believes it is due to “environmental factors”. The disorder is not believed to be genetic, and the condition does not appear prevalent within certain families.

The procedure to take place at the Cleveland Clinic may offer women without wombs hope, but it will also be more experimental than the previously successful uterus transplants that have successfully taken place in Sweden. Unlike the procedures in Sweden, the uteruses that will be used in the U.S. will come from dead donors as opposed to living relatives.

By using the uterus of a deceased woman, it is uncertain how each recipient will fare. Doctors believe that overall the procedure will be safer, as it eliminates the risk to the live donors used in the previous studies.

If successful, the procedure will not allow women to become pregnant from sex. Participants will still need to go through fertility treatments in order to have a child.

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