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Exclusive: First U.S. Baby Born After a Uterus Transplant

Exclusive: First U.S. Baby Born After a Uterus Transplant
From TIME - December 1, 2017

For the first time in the United States, a woman who was born without a uterus gave birth to a baby. The landmark birth took place at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, a part of Baylor Scott & White, TIME reports exclusively.

Weve been preparing for this moment for a very long time, says Dr. Liza Johannesson, an ob-gyn and uterus transplant surgeon at Baylor. I think everyone had tears in their eyes when the baby came out. I did for sure. The woman and her husband asked that their identity not be revealed in order to protect their privacy

The birth took place at Baylorthe first birth in the hospitals ongoing uterus transplant clinical trial. Women who participate in the trial have whats called absolute uterine factor infertility (AUI), which means their uterus is nonfunctioning or nonexistent. Most of the women in the trial have a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kster-Hauser (MRKH) syndromeand have lived their entire lives under the assumption that they would never be able to be pregnant or give birth to a baby. The procedure could also work for women with other medical issues, such as certain cancers.

We do transplants all day long, says Dr. Giuliano Testa, the leader of the uterus transplant clinical trial at Baylor, and surgical chief of abdominal transplant for Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute. This is not the same thing. I totally underestimated what this type of transplant does for these women. What Ive learned emotionally, I do not have the words to describe.

The birth was a scheduled Caesarean section, and most members of the multidisciplinary clinical trial team were present. The baby was delivered healthy and screaming. Ive delivered a lot of babies, but this one was special, says Dr. Robert T. Gunby Jr., the obstetrician and gynecologist who delivered the baby. When I started my career we didnt even have sonograms. Now we are putting in uteruses from someone else and getting a baby.

The moment Dr. Gunby first held up the baby was emotional for many members of the medical team. Outside my own children, this is the most excited Ive ever been about any baby being born, says Dr. Gregory J. McKenna, a transplant surgeon at Baylor. I just started to cry.

A donors gift

Taylor Siler, 36, a registered nurse in the Dallas area, donated her uterus to the woman who recently gave birth. Siler wasnt always certain she wanted to have children, but she says deciding to get pregnant was one of her best decisions. Once they lay that baby in your arms, Siler says. Your life changes forever.

Siler, who has two boys aged 6 and 4, came across a news segment about Baylors uterus transplant program. She and her husband had already decided they were not going to have any more children, and she wanted to offer someone else a shot at motherhood. I have family members who struggled to have babies, and its not fair, says Siler. I just think that if we can give more people that option, thats an awesome thing.

Siler went through extensive screening about both her physical and mental health before getting approval for the trial. Participating required surgery and about 12 weeks of recovery. Baylor says it typically takes about five hours for the wombs to be removed from the living donors, and another five to transplant.

Though she did not know the woman who received her uterus, Siler and the recipient exchanged letters on the day of the surgery, and the recipient sent Siler another letter to let her know when she was pregnant. Baylor informed Siler this week that the woman had given birth. Ive just been crying and getting teary thinking about it,says Siler, who had not yet met the new mother when she spoke to TIME. I think about her every day and I probably will for the rest of my life.

How a uterus transplant works

The women in the clinical trial are transplanted with a uterus from either a living or deceased donor. The woman who gave birth received her transplant from Siler, who was a so-called altruistic living donor: a stranger who volunteered to donate her uterus to a woman without one. So far, Baylor says theyve had over 70 women express interest in donating their uterus.

Baylor will complete a total of 10 uterus transplants as part of its first trial. So far the hospital has completed eight. At least three have failed. The hospital has confirmed to Time that there is another woman in the trial who is pregnant, using a living donor uterus.

Renewed hope

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