A baby has been born from the same womb that nurtured his mother. The incredible procedure, in which the womb of a mother was transplanted into her daughter, who then underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to have the child, connects the three generations. The revolutionary process has been carried out in Sweden, and the baby is the fourth child – all of them boys – to have been born from a transplanted womb, with a fifth baby on the way.
This birth follows the first ever successful pregnancy after a uterine transplantation last year, performed by the same medical team at the University of Gothenburg, and led by Dr. Mats Brannstrom. This was part of a trial Brannstrom was running at the time with nine women who were all either born without a uterus in the first place, or had to have theirs removed due to cancer. The groundbreaking work conducted by the team is considered by some to be as big a breakthrough in fertility medicine as that made by IVF in the 1980s.
The new mother had to have her own womb removed in her 20s due to cancer, but last year underwent the operation along with her mother, who is in her 50s. According to the Associated Press, the now-grandmother immediately agreed to the procedure when her daughter asked, although she didn’t grasp the full magnitude of what they were to undergo at the time.
The transplantation of a womb is a very tricky process. Interestingly, an old womb is just as good when it comes to nurturing a baby as a young one – it’s the age of the eggs that impacts the growth of a fetus. Problems begin to arise when the recipient’s body rejects the new organ, meaning that after surgery the patient has to continuously take drugs that suppress the immune system. This means that it is impractical for a woman to receive a transplant and keep it for the rest of her life. In all procedures by Brannstrom, the new womb is intended for just two pregnancies, after which time it will be removed.
The new mother has asked for her and her now 9-month-old son to remain anonymous, though she plans on telling him how he was born when he is old enough. Doctors in other countries, from Britain to the United States, are also attempting uterine transplants, though using wombs from women who have recently died, not living donors. If Brannstrom can perform the operation repeatedly and show it to be reliable and safe, this could dramatically change current fertility treatments.