It’s been a long road for the researchers, but it’s paid off, big-time: last month, the world’s first ever womb-transplant baby was born in Sweden.
It’s a huge medical breakthrough, not only because the options for infertile women have now been expanded drastically, but because it could eventually mean that men might be able give birth, too — at least theoretically.
It’s almost too sci-fi to believe: nearly two years ago, a woman who’d been born with no uterus (a condition which affects one in 4,500), had her 61-year-old family friend’s womb transplanted into her. A year later, an embryo — which had been made previously through a process of IVF, using her own egg and her husband’s sperm — was implanted into the uterus. Just under nine months later, she gave birth to her own baby boy in Gothenberg, Sweden.
Over the last couple of years, Swedish scientists began transplanting uteri into nine women; seven of these have been successful, and two of the women are now six months pregnant. It’s been groundbreaking research; before them, only two other attempts had been made to transplant these organs, and none had led to births. The success of the Swedish research will mean big things for the rest of the world. As Dr Richard Smith of the UK Womb Transplantation Team told BBC Radio 4:
The great big unknown always was could a transplanted uterus carry a baby and have a successful live birth and that’s why what’s happened here is so exciting. The great unknown is now answered which is that it is possible — it’s the proof of purpose.
This is of course a huge deal for women who struggle with infertility, but who long to carry their own children.