The inability to have children can be heartbreaking. Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore is preparing to give one woman the chance to have a child by performing the country’s first womb (uterine) transplant, and the first successful womb transplant in the world.

The transplant would be temporary, only lasting long enough for the recipient to become pregnant with frozen embryos and bring the baby to term for delivery. Del Priore hopes that using a brain dead donor would bring a greater chance of success than a previous attempt by Saudi doctors in 2000 where the transplanted uterus had to be removed after only 99 days because of a stop in bloodflow to the organ.

Such a transplant could help a woman either born without a uterus or who has had a hysterectomy to have a child without using a surrogate mother to carry the child. Having struggled with infertility before finally becoming pregnant with my own son, I know how strong the longing to have a child can be, but the risks involved with this particular procedure are not something that can be ignored.

In addition to the usual course of drugs and hormones administered to women who conceive through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the transplant recipient would need to take medications to prevent her body from rejecting the donor organ. Remembering how careful I had to be about what medicine I did or did not take during my own pregnancy, I am very wary of the effects such drugs could have on the potential fetus.

I also can’t help but think of a well-crafted hoax based on this same science, the pregnant man.

While this transplant procedure is considered safe for humans, the fact remains that it has not been done before, and there is no telling what additional risks the recipient and her unborn child might face. By using immunosuppressant drugs to prevent her body from rejecting the donor uterus, the recipient becomes more succeptible to common illnesses that could present a threat to her health and the health of her baby. Pregnancy itself is hard on a woman’s body. Who knows what additional strain would be caused by the presence of the donor organ itself?

Again, I do understand why a woman would want to receive a donor uterus in order to have the child she so desperately wants. But until more is learned about the effects of such a radical procedure, at least a successful transplant pregnancy in a primate, I would hope that surrogacy and adoption were seriously considered first. After all, it is heartbreaking when you are unable to conceive a child; but it would be that much more terrible to lose your miracle child due to a failed transplant.

For additional information:

City doc to do uterus transplant, New York Daily News

‘Uterus transplant could be tomorrow’, New Scientist

In addition to Blogger News Network, Christina Gayle writes for Cutest Baby Ever, Uncharted Island – a LOST Blog, and The Wild Eggplant – for fans of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

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