The couple went through multiple check-ups and screenings at the Solapur civil hospital. Her situation now became clear: she did NOT have a uterus.
Needless to say, the couple and other family members were distraught. She really wanted to have her own baby but was not ready for adoption or surrogacy. The one option that was left for her was something not commonly known or practised in India. In fact, it had never happened in India before.
She needed a womb transplant. And it was her own mother who came forward to help her experience the joy of becoming a parent. Her mother’s uterus was found to be medically suitable for her.
The Womb Transplant Procedure – How It’s Done
The first ever womb transplant procedure was performed in Sweden in 2012. The baby was born prematurely through C-section, but today, is leading a happy and healthy life. It had never been performed in India – never, that is, till May 18, when doctors at Pune’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) successfully conducted India’s first womb transplant. This is a moment of great pride for India’s medical fraternity. A woman, born without a uterus, and with zero hope of ever experiencing childbirth, can now become a parent.
The 21-year-old is currently under observation. She will have to wait for one year to allow her body time to recover and adjust to the new uterus. After one year, she can consider trying to get pregnant via the in-vitro fertilization technique (IVF). Simply put, this is a how a womb transplant procedure is conducted, and how it helps women become mothers:
- The eggs are removed from the patient
- These eggs are fertilized with sperm
- The resulting embryos are then frozen
- The uterus is then removed from the donor and transplanted into the recipient through surgery
- The embryos are implanted in the uterus a year after the transplant
Who Can Benefit From Womb Transplant
If the womb transplant procedure is successfully – and safely – adapted by the medical community, many women facing challenges in conceiving can experience the joy of childbirth. This includes:
- Women suffering from absolute uterine infertility, i.e. an absent, removed or diseased uterus
- Women suffering from Asherman’s Syndrome, or scar tissue in the uterus
- Women suffering from cervical cancer
- Transgender women who wish to give birth
Risks Involved In Womb Transplant Procedure
Organ transplant operations are always fraught with risks. After all, this is a whole organ we are talking about, to be introduced in a foreign body, and there is always a chance of ‘rejection’ or other side effects. Till date, as many as 11 womb transplant attempts worldwide have been unsuccessful. Needless to say, the operation in Pune too was a high-risk one that lasted for nine and a half hours!
|| While, thankfully, both mother and daughter are reported to be fine and in recovery, the next 15 days will be extremely crucial. Only time will adjudge if there could be any possible complications that might have gone unnoticed. Both mother and daughter will also need intensive care at least for the first six months. The daughter will need immunosuppressant (anti-rejection drugs) to ensure her body does not reject the new organ.
Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, GCLI medical director, says, “The procedure is difficult because multiple large arteries are to be joined there, and veins that are small and short. It is technically very tough.”
He also added that the doctors will remove the transplanted uterus after she delivers a baby, as they cannot keep her on immunosuppressant medicine for life.
This is a moment of truth for the Indian medical fraternity – we have our first successful womb transplant, and a mother has given her daughter the gift of parenthood. However, it remains to be seen if this eventually results in safe childbirth. It also remains to be seen how this affects the quality of life and health of both the donor and the recipient. At present, India has limited regulation/rules on the process of womb transplant. There are no clearly set procedures and protocols established by the Indian Council of Medical Research. There is also the risk vs. result question: for a woman keen to become a mother but unable to, wouldn’t surrogacy be a far less risky option? Do our women need to undergo such a risky procedure merely for the social validation that comes with motherhood?
Only time will tell. Our prayers to both the mother and her daughter – may they recover quickly, and lead happy, healthy lives.
Via Hindustan TimesCover Image only for representational purposes