By Dr. Murray Feingold
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Here is a report of a first in medical history: A 35-year-old woman was born without a uterus and only one kidney. She wanted to become pregnant and have children but needed a uterus to accomplish this.
For the past 10 years, research has been underway to learn how to transplant a uterus from one woman to another.
Since this woman needed a transplanted uterus, now was the time to determine if all of the research efforts could culminate in successfully providing her a uterus. If this was successful, the next step would be to have her become pregnant, have a successful pregnancy and deliver a normal baby.
A uterus from a healthy 61-year-old woman, who already had her own children, was found and transplanted to the hopeful mother.
The first bit of good news was, 43 days after the transplantation she had her first period. Then, about a year after the uterus was transplanted, she underwent transfer of an embryo. This was successful. To help prevent rejection of the uterus, she received immunosuppression drugs during the pregnancy.
The growth of the fetus was closely monitored, and everything was fine until the 31st week of pregnancy at which time she developed preeclampsia. This is associated with high blood pressure and frequently, damage to the kidney. And remember, she has only one kidney.
Because of the development of preeclampsia, a cesarean section was done and a baby was delivered weighing 3.9 pounds. The infant was healthy, and after a stay in the hospital, was subsequently discharged home.
Although not common, there are a variety of conditions in which a woman is born without a uterus. If these women desire to have children there are limited options available to them, such as surrogacy and adoption.
This report documents the ability of a woman, who had a transplanted uterus, to have a successful pregnancy and an apparently healthy baby.
Although this is a tremendous achievement, it also raises many questions including, is this the best way to spend our scarce health dollars?
I’m sure it is to this mother who now has the baby she always wanted.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.