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Sister, Can You Spare a Uterus?

Welcome to the future, little one.
Welcome to the future, little one. Photo: 3photo/Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Today in things you weren’t imagining about your uterus: As the New York Times explained in a special report, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic expect to attempt their first transplant of a uterus from a deceased donor in the next few months. They’re exploring this option for women with uterine factor infertility (UFI), meaning those who were born without a uterus or have an abnormality that makes it difficult to carry a pregnancy. If it works, they estimate that 50,000 women could be candidates.

As magical as this sounds, there are still plenty of stipulations. The transplant would be temporary and have to be removed after the recipient has one or two children. In order to avoid the strain of vaginal delivery, women could only give birth via C-section. And doctors won’t attach the fallopian tubes to the uterus, so the procedure would be strictly BYOO (bring your own ovaries).

Before having the procedure, a candidate would have to take hormone treatments for in vitro fertilization. Once doctors collect ten eggs and fertilize and freeze them, the candidate would be put on the transplant waiting list. After finding a match and having the surgery, she’d wait a year to heal, then have the first egg implanted.

Doctors in Sweden have successfully performed this procedure nine times (with live donors, no less), which has resulted in four births and another expected in January. They proved that the uteruses of postmenopausal women can still carry a child — and in five out of nine cases, the donor was the recipient’s mother. The Cleveland Clinic will use deceased donors rather than have otherwise healthy women undergo a potentially risky surgery.

Eight women across the country have begun the screening process for the procedure, which involves determining if they’re in a stable relationship and don’t have any psychological disorders, which could affect their ability to recover from the transplant. One of the candidates, a 26-year-old who was born without a uterus, told the Times that she has two adopted kids, but she still wants to be able to carry a child. “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.”

Sister, Can You Spare a Uterus?