India’s first womb transplants: 2 moms to donate uteri, help daughters conceive

By, Pune
May 10, 2017 11:18 AM IST

If the surgery is successful, both the recipients will be able to conceive using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and have children.

Doctors at a Pune hospital will conduct India’s first womb transplantation next week when they will transfer two uteri from healthy donors to two recipients, who are unable to bear children.

Swedish doctors are likely to participate in the procedure.(Representative image)
Swedish doctors are likely to participate in the procedure.(Representative image)

The donors in both the cases are the mothers of the recipients and the procedure will be done consecutively at Pune’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) on May 18 and 19.

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If the surgery is successful, both the recipients will be able to conceive using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and have children.

What is womb transplantation?

A womb (uterine transplantation) involves removing a healthy kidney from a donor and implanting it in a woman of reproductive age with uterine factor infertility, enabling the recipient to bear her own child

The first womb transplantation was done in Sweden in 2012 and the first baby was born to the recipient in 2014

Since 2014, 110 children have been born to womb transplant recipients

Both donor and recipient undergo screening procedure post which the uterus is retrieved and transplanted in the recipient, who undergoes three surgeries

If the recipient conceives, she delivers the baby through Caesarean-section and has to take immno-suppressants for the rest of her life to prevent rejection of the donor uterus

In India, for the first time womb transplantation is taking place in Pune based Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute

“Two women are getting uterus transplants—one because she could not conceive as she did not have a uterus, and the other because she suffers from Asherman’s Syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus),” said Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, medical director, GCLI, who is heading the team of 13 doctors doing the surgery.

Womb transplantation was first done in Sweden in 2012 and the first baby, born to the recipient in 2014, was delivered prematurely through Caesarean section, and was healthy, according to the the British medical journal The Lancet.

The Maharashtra directorate of health services granted GCLI the licence to carry out womb transplantation for five years after inspecting its facilities in April this year.

“Till now, around 25 transplants have been attempted, of which post-transplant pregnancies happened in less than 10 cases. The process will provide legal, biological and gestational motherhood to the recipient,” said Dr Puntambekar.

Dr Puntambekar said the surgical team went to Sweden to learn about the transplantation procedure before practising on human cadavers in Germany and the US.

“Before going ahead in our hospital, we followed a rigorous process while choosing the donor and the recipient of womb,” he said.

Swedish doctors are likely to participate in the procedure.

The hospital has been preparing for womb transplants over the past few months with recipients being made to undergo ovulation stimulation through IVF. Frozen embryos are implanted in the womb after transplantation for the couple to conceive.

Surgeons at GCLI will transplant a womb in a third woman, who is suffering from cervical cancer, at a later stage.

Besides GCLI, Bangalore-based Milann International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health has also received approval from Indian Council of Medical Research for womb transplantation on two women, but no dates have been announced yet.

The first two womb transplants will be done free though the cost of procedure is around Rs 7-8 lakh.

“The transplantation is not known to harm the recipient or the baby even despite the use of immuno-suppressants and the multiple surgeries involved,” said Dr Puntambekar.

He cited data on kidney transplant patients successfully delivering babies despite being put on immuno-suppressants in support.

The Pune surgeons will retrieve the uterus using a laparoscopic technique, which is expected to shorten the duration of the procedure.

“It took 16 hours for uterus transplantation in Sweden, but we will do it in reduced time, by using a laparoscopic technique for retrieval,” said gynaecologist Dr Milind Telang, who is part of the team doing the transplantation.

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    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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