When Jacklyn Misch heard about the first uterus transplant ever performed in the U.S., she started crying.
Misch, 27, was diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) when she was 16, ABC News reported. Since then, she’s accepted that in order to have children, she’d need to adopt or endure IVF.
The condition affects 1 in 4,500 girls and causes the vagina and uterus to be either underdeveloped or absent. These women have functioning ovaries, so it is possible for them to have babies via IVF or surrogacy. In fact, Jacklyn and her husband were about to start treatment, but the first uterus transplant has given her — and other girls diagnosed with the condition — hope she never had.
“I talked to my mom about this. It is a complicated emotion because I said I could have a baby bump now. I never in my life envisioned myself with a baby bump.”
Two years ago, the world’s first uterine transplant took place in Sweden. So far, five babies have been born thanks to this unique surgery, The Washington Post reported.
This procedure isn’t like any other. Like transplants of the genitals (an American veteran will soon get the country’s first penis transplant) or the face (this firefighter just got the world’s most extensive surgery), the surgery is considered life-enhancing, not life saving, which makes it controversial.
The procedure takes nine hours, requires the patient to have their eggs harvested and frozen, and to take a course of anti-rejection drugs. In the U.S., the donor must opt-in to provide the uterus and must also be deceased; in Sweden, donors were living and usually post-menopausal women.
The surgery is difficult — the uterus and blood supply is inserted in the patients’ pelvis, the blood vessels attached, and then the long road to recovery begins. Within a few months, the patient will start menstruating, and in a year, she can try to have a baby.
The most unexpected feature of the uterus transplant is that it’s temporary — women who receive a donated womb can only keep it long enough for one or two healthy pregnancies. After that, it’ll be removed so she can stop taking anti-rejection drugs.
But for many women for whom surrogacy is a lesser consolation prize, the procedure is very worth it.
“The really important thing for this story is it speaks to the incredibly powerful drive that some woman have to carry their own baby,” ABC’s Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “Even though uterine surrogacy is legal in the U.S. for some women, it’s not enough, it’s not the same thing. This is, I think, a really exciting important step for women’s health in this country.”
It was very important for the unnamed, 26-year-old woman who received the world first uterine transplant at the Cleveland Clinic Wednesday. Before the surgery, she described her life-long desire to be pregnant in an interview.
“I crave that experience. I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feet swelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.”
And now, she may be able to. Before the transplant, she had her eggs removed, fertilized, and frozen. If the procedure is a success, she’ll have an embryo implanted and may soon have her first child, NBC News reported.
For now, only those with Uterine Factor Infertility — those who’ve had a hysterectomy, fibroids, or scarring — are eligible for the procedure. And, of course, the first uterus transplant gives hope to people with MRKH, like Kristen Peterson, 28.
“When you believe for 12 years that there is no option for you whatsoever to get pregnant, in an instant that changes. The option changes it and it makes it feel there’s a possibility.”
[Photo By Skylines/Shutterstock]