The United Kingdom has made medical history with doctors carrying out the country’s first womb transplant.
Surgeons at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford successfully transplanted a sister’s womb to her 34-year-old sibling in an operation that lasted nine hours and 20 minutes on Sunday, according to local media reports.
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The operation to remove the donor’s womb lasted more than eight hours.
“It was incredible. I think it was probably the most stressful week in my surgical career but also unbelievably positive,” Richard Smith, the lead surgeon for the operation, told the UK’s Press Association.
“The donor and recipient are over the moon, just over the moon.”
The recipient of the womb, also called a uterus, was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH), a rare condition that impacts women’s reproductive systems.
In order to conceive, she stored her embryos with the goal of undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments later this year.
But her sister, 40, was willing to donate her uterus after giving birth to her own two children, facilitating a womb transplant procedure.
Isabel Quiroga, the other lead surgeon involved in the operation, said that the recipient’s “womb was functioning perfectly”.
The transplant is expected to last for a maximum of five years before the womb is removed and during this period, the recipient will have to take immunosuppressant drugs to ensure she does not reject the implant, according to the Press Association report.
Smith said that the woman can now get pregnant.
“Hopefully that embryo will take, and hopefully nine months later she’ll [have a] Caesarean section,” he said.
“Once she’s had a Caesarean section, she does have a choice – six months later – of a complete hysterectomy or to go and have another baby,” he added.
NHS England chief midwifery officer Kate Brintworth said: “On behalf of the whole health service, I would like to send my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the donor and recipient on what is an amazing milestone.”
Womb transplants have previously been carried out in countries including the United States and Sweden.
Quiroga added that more women are contacting the charity Womb Transplant UK seeking to donate their uteruses and help other women.
“So yes, there will definitely be a time in which that is a main source of donors,” she said.
A second womb transplant is scheduled to take place in months in the UK.