Womb transplants are a safe and efficacious method for treating infertility, according to the first ever prospective study of uterine transplantation from living donors.
The study, which was conducted by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, closely followed pregnancy and health outcomes of nine women, aged between 27 and 34, who received the transplants. Of those nine, seven subsequently underwent IVF, with six becoming pregnant and giving birth, and three having twins.
'This is the first complete study that's been done, and the results exceed expectations in terms both of clinical pregnancy rate and of the cumulative live birth rate', said Professor Mats Brännström, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, who led the research.
The study specifically focused on treating absolute uterine factor infertility (AUFI), which is when a uterus is either absent or non-functional. AUFI is estimated to affect more than 12,000 women of fertile age in the UK, and until recently was untreatable.
Since the first live birth following uterine transplantation to treat AUFI, which occurred in Sweden in 2014, around 50 babies have been born worldwide following the procedure.
Researchers found the 'clinical pregnancy rate', which measures the probability of pregnancy per embryo during IVF, amongst the seven patients who underwent IVF was 33 percent, similar to the general success rate of IVF in mothers under 35 in the UK.
Additionally, the researchers found that health-related quality of life among the nine patients was higher than the general population, which included no required treatment for anxiety or depression among either the recipients or the donors.
'The study also shows positive health outcomes', said Professor Brännström. 'The children born to date remain healthy and the long-term health of donors and recipients is generally good too.'
While the only symptoms specifically mentioned described mild discomfort and swelling in the legs, it was also reported that, while all the children were born healthy, three women developed preeclampsia and four of the newborns suffered respiratory distress syndrome, which occurs when a baby's lungs have not produced enough surfactant, meaning that sufficient oxygen cannot be provided.
The authors note that the study extended to only nine participants. However, they argue that the sample size is reasonable given that womb transplants are 'a novel type of infertility treatment and a major transplantation surgery procedure', and it still provides an initial indication of the effectiveness of this new infertility treatment.