UK to carry out womb transplants

The first womb transplant in the UK will take place within months after doctors were given the go-ahead for the procedure.

UK to carry out womb transplants

Ten British women without wombs will get the chance to carry their own babies after approval was granted by a special research committee which covers Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

A clinical trial will launch in the spring and more than 100 women have been identified as potential recipients of donor wombs.

Around one in 5,000 women is born without a womb, while others lose their womb to cancer.

Richard Smith will lead the team hoping to perform the UK’s first ever womb transplant following the success of the procedure in Sweden.

Mr Smith said childlessness could be a “disaster” for couples, but the technique would offer hope to those whose only other option is surrogacy or adoption.

Mr Smith, 55, a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, has been working on the project for 19 years.

He said he was pleased to have been granted approval for the move, which follows the birth of a baby boy in Sweden last year.

He said: “I’ve met many of the women who want this and it’s really important for them and their partners.

“Infertility is a difficult thing to treat for these women. For a woman to carry her own baby — that has to be a wonderful thing.”

The 10 women who will be selected for the trial must all meet strict criteria, which includes being 38 or under, having a long-term partner and being a healthy weight.

Before the trial starts, embryos will be created and frozen using each woman’s eggs and sperm from her partner.

The women will then undergo a six-hour transplant operation to receive a womb from a donor who is classed as brain dead but whose heart has been kept beating.

After 12 months on immunosuppressant drugs and close monitoring, each woman will be implanted with one of her embryos.

Any baby would be delivered by Caesarean section to prevent the donor womb going through the stresses and strains of labour.

Mr Smith said the trial would use deceased donors owing to the complexities of the operation.

“Donor retrieval is a bigger operation than transplanting the uterus into the recipient,” he said. “We don’t want to subject a live donor to that operation.”

Six months after giving birth, each woman will be given the option of trying for one more baby, or the womb will be removed by surgeons.

This is to minimise the risk of keeping women on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, which have side-effects, including an increased risk of cancer.

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