Recent news reports have suggested that those seeking surrogacy in California may one day have an alternative option. The first uterine transplant has taken place on U.S. soil and the results were notable. Swedish researchers have been perfecting the method for years, and by the end of 2015, four births came as a result. The real question is, will this truly impact the need for surrogacy in California – and become a viable solution to all intended parents – or is it just hype?
How Uterine Transplants Work
Right now, uterine transplants are in the preliminary testing stages with human candidates. In Sweden, nine women have undergone the procedure. Of those nine, five conceived and four babies were delivered.
In the United States, the Cleveland Clinic is running similar trials, and ten women have been selected to be the recipients of donor uteruses.
- The patient undergoes IVF treatment. Eggs are harvested, fertilized, and frozen.
- The patient waits for a uterus to be donated. This occurs in the same fashion that traditional organ donation does.
- The patient is placed on anti-rejection medications, so that her body accepts the new organ. She will remain on the drugs until after she is done having children. The transplant occurs within eight hours of donation.
- After 12 months, the uterus has had enough time to heal, and the patient has begun having monthly cycles. The embryos are then transferred.
- The pregnancy is treated as a high-risk pregnancy, with the mother receiving monthly cervical biopsies to ensure her body is not rejecting the uterus.
- The baby is delivered via C-section.
- The mother may be able to have one or two babies after a uterine transplant. However, the anti-rejection drugs may cause long-term health issues, so the medications are stopped after the mother concludes her final pregnancy. In some cases, a hysterectomy is performed. In others, the woman’s body absorbs the tissues.
Who is a Candidate for Uterine Transplants?
Uterine transplants only work in specific situations, namely when the woman suffers from uterine factor infertility or UFI. These are women who were born without, or no longer have, a uterus, as well as those who have damaged uteruses and cannot carry a baby as a result. In the American trials, only healthy women between the ages of 21 and 39 were considered, and they also had to pass medical and mental health evaluations.
Will Uterine Transplants Put an End to Surrogacy in California?
There will likely always be a need for surrogacy in California. There are many reasons why people may be unable to carry a baby. This is true when a pregnancy is too risky for the mother and/or child and also with intended fathers, which wish to parent alone or with a partner. In the United States, the trials are only beginning, and many successful pregnancies will need to occur before it becomes an option for the general public. Sadly, the first patient to undergo the procedure was diagnosed with a yeast infection shortly after receiving the uterus. Not only did she lose the organ, but complications stemming from the incident caused her other health issues, and she required additional surgeries. Doctors have decided to put the program on hold until they find out what caused the infection and can prevent the same tragedy from occurring again.