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For the First Time, U.S. Woman Gives Birth Via Transplanted Uterus

Uterus transplants could make previously infertile people the parents they've always wanted to be.

Baylor University Medical Center

For the first time in the U.S., doctors have successfully delivered a baby that grew to term inside a transplanted uterus, giving new hope to women around the world who struggle with infertility. Not only is this a milestone for prospective parents, it’s also an advancement for transplant surgery—a practice responsible for both saving lives and, now, creating new ones.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for a very long time,” Liza Johannesson, an ob-gyn and uterus transplant surgeon at Baylor, told TIME. “I think everyone had tears in their eyes when the baby came out. I did for sure.”

This was not Johannesson’s first delivery of an infant through an artificial uterus. In 2014, she was a part of a team of doctors who successfully delivered the first such baby in Sweden. According to the case study, published in The Lancet one year later, a woman born with a congenital absence of a uterus, received a transplant from a postmenopausal friend and became pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. Although this particular woman had Rokitansky syndrome, a genetic disease which affects 1 in 4,500 newborn girls annually, the transplant could help the five percent of women who will be diagnosed with uterine factory infertility. 

Johannesson left Sweden to join experts at Baylor for the most recent clinical trial, which includes 10 women and is still in-progress. Eight of these women have received transplants so far. Aside from the new mother, one recipient is currently pregnant and two are trying to conceive. The other four had unsuccessful transplants, and their uteri were safely removed. Unlike other organ transplants, uterine transplants aren’t intended to stay. Instead, they’re only meant to remain in a woman long enough to gestate a healthy baby, and are later removed.

Although the results are promising, Johannesson warns that it is still too early to consider transplants a routine option. “To make the field grow and expand and have the procedure come out to more women, it has to be reproduced,” she told the New York Times. But in the meantime, she’s basking in the successful procedure. “I’ve seen so many births and delivered so many babies,” Johannesson says. “But this was a very special one.”