At 15, Malin Stenberg received the devastating news that she could not bear children. She was among baby girls born without a womb; a condition doctors refer to as mullerian agenesis or MRKH. It is a congenital malformation where the mullerian duct - which gives rise to the fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus, and the upper portion of the vagina - fails to develop resulting in the absence of a uterus. The condition affects 1 in 4,500 females.
Today, she holds the distinction of being the first woman to deliver a baby from a transplanted womb, donated by a 61-year-old friend. She underwent the womb transplant as part of research funded by the Swedish Charity Jane and Dan Olsson Foundation.
The Gothenburg University-initiated programmed involved nine women, who like Stenberg were born without a womb, and received transplants donated by sisters, family or friends.
Stenberg was crushed to learn of her condition but eventually accepted her fate even though she was extremely fond of children. Then she met her current partner Claes Nilsson at 30. He turned out more determined to have a family and vowed to do everything possible for them to have a baby.
The couple initially considered surrogacy and adoption before joining the pioneering Gothenburg University transplantation programme.
Matts Brannstrom, Gothenburg University's professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and lead researcher, warned the couple there were no guarantees to the success of the transplant.
The transplant operation lasted 10 hours. Stenberg was made to take three types of drug to keep her body from rejecting the transplanted organ. Doctors were elated when she started having her period six weeks after the operation, saying it was a sign of a healthy womb.
Brannstrom was also surprised that an older uterus was favorable for the transplant.
A year after the breakthrough operation, a single embryo from an egg and sperm taken from the couple created in a lab dish was transferred to the Swedish woman's womb. Stenberg experienced three mild rejections, including when she was pregnant, that doctors successfully treated.
The miracle baby, born two months premature, is now a healthy 20-month old boy named Vincent, whose name means "conqueror."
The now 38-year-old Stenberg said she could not contain her joy the first time she held her son, describing the experience as "natural and amazing." Her womb donor, herself a mother of two, has become Vincent's godmother. She refers to the baby as a "seventh blessing."
While the family initially wanted to keep the operation and birth a secret, Stenberg eventually realised sharing her experience would give hope to other women with the same condition who may want to have children of their own.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has given the green light for the first woman to undergo womb transplantation in 2017. Ten women are part of this programme although a hundred women are lined up as potential recipients of a womb transplant. The team of surgeons handling the programme is led by Dr Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital. He has been working on the project for 20 years.
In the U.S, a 26-year old woman underwent the country’s first case of womb transplantation and is looking forward to getting pregnant and giving birth, according to Scientific American. The surgeons involved in the procedure closely collaborated with Swedish doctors who made it possible for the first transplanted womb recipient to give birth a baby.
The womb transplantation in the U.S, said Business Insider, gave rise to the question if men were able to give birth via a transplanted uterus. A gynecologist said it would be ‘technically possible’ for men to carry and give birth.
However, there will be extensive surgical procedures and endocrinologic alterations for the reconstruction of the pelvis and the creation of a vagina, and afterward, a complex hormonal treatment to sustain the pregnancy. MIMS
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