It was a first in the United States. A woman, only identified as Lindsey, received a uterus from a deceased woman. Lindsey was born without a uterus, and she was hoping this transplant would enable her to get pregnant. At a press conference at the end of February, Cleveland doctors announced it was the first successful uterus transplant in the United States. Only days later, Lindsey suffered complications and had to undergo another surgery to remove the organ.
The Cleveland team of doctors has been given permission to experiment with uterus transplants in nine other women, and a few other clinics will also attempt the procedure.
In Sweden, doctors have performed nine uterus-transplant surgeries on women who were missing wombs, and these have resulted in four births. All of these organs came from live donors. All of the children were premature and were delivered by cesarean section.
In every case, whether successful or not, uterus transplants are only temporary. The women have to take immuno-suppressive drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the transplant. The plan is to only allow one or two pregnancies before the women undergo a final surgery to remove the organ. This is to minimize their exposure to the immune-suppressing drugs.
Also, in all of the uterus transplants to date, the Fallopian tubes are not connected. This means that conception cannot take place naturally; in vitro fertilization (IVF), with the transfer of embryos to the transplanted uterus, is required. The women can use their own eggs or use donated eggs from another woman to create embryos.
Many Catholics are wondering if uterus transplants are ethical. As they stand right now, the answer is: No, simply because IVF is required to create embryos, and the Catholic Church teaches it is morally unacceptable to separate procreation from the marital act. But what if the uterus transplant can be modified to link the Fallopian tubes to the ovaries, allowing natural conception to take place?
Rebecca Taylor blogs at Mary Meets Dolly