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Women Without Wombs Attempt Transplants

January 14, 2014

In what is most likely a rarely celebrated phenomenon, women in Sweden are rejoicing in having their periods. Why, you might wonder, when our society consistently hopes to minimize or ignore any reference to this fertility ritual our bodies perform almost monthly? It seems that these women were born without a uterus or had their uterus removed because of cancer and are participating in a trial in which they have a uterus transplant.

Brannstrom said the nine womb recipients are doing well. Many already had their periods six weeks after the transplants, an early sign that the wombs are healthy and functioning. One woman had an infection in her newly received uterus and others had some minor rejection episodes, but none of the recipients or donors needed intensive care after the surgery, Brannstrom said. All left the hospital within days.

Brannstrom is a physician running the experiment, and he hopes to publish his results soon. All period-related euphoria aside, the news reports are less than objective. Notice that the quote states “many” of the womb recipients have had their periods, out of a total of nine. How “many” can that be when only 9 women received a transplant? It could be argued though that there are all kinds of useless hysterectomies performed each year, so why not make use of an organ that other physicians have no respect for?

Love how they call it a womb transplant when looking at trying to procreate with it, but otherwise it’s just a uterus. The dichotomy here and hypocrisy is stunning. Check out the first paragraph describing women and needing wombs to conceive and the second paragraph here calling the organ a uterus when discussing cancer:

The transplant operations did not connect the women’s uteruses to their fallopian tubes, so they are unable to get pregnant naturally. But all who received a womb have their own ovaries and can make eggs. Before the operation, they had some removed to create embryos through in-vitro fertilization. The embryos were then frozen and doctors plan to transfer them into the new wombs, allowing the women to carry their own biological children.

The transplants have ignited hope among women unable to have children because they lost a uterus to cancer or were born without one. About one in girl in 4,500 is born with a syndrome, known as MRKH, where she doesn’t have a womb.

Sooooo, it’s a womb when you are born without a baby-making organ, but it’s uterus when you get cancer in it. Call me cynical, but this surgery hasn’t been promoted out an altruistic motive–these men are publishing papers on these women, performing complicated surgeries as an experiment on human beings, and no one seems to mention that.  I can’t help but notice, too, that these men are now in what sounds like a god position, attempting to control women’s bodies as if they are marionettes on a string. Note that the physicians even say they will limit the number of pregnancies they allow the women to have, even after going through all the surgery to get the “womb.”

The technique used in Sweden, using live donors, is somewhat controversial. In Britain, doctors are also planning to perform uterus transplants, but will only use wombs from dying or dead people. That was also the case in Turkey. Last year, Turkish doctors announced their patient got pregnant but the pregnancy failed after two months.

“Mats has done something amazing and we understand completely why he has taken this route, but we are wary of that approach,” said Dr. Richard Smith, head of the U.K. charity Womb Transplant UK, which is trying to raise 500,000 pounds ($823,000) to carry out five operations in Britain.

He said removing a womb for donation is like a radical hysterectomy but it requires taking a bigger chunk of the surrounding blood vessels to ensure adequate blood flow, raising the risk of complications for the donor. Smith said British officials don’t consider it ethical to let donors take such chances for an operation that isn’t considered life-saving.

Smith said the biggest question is how any pregnancies will proceed.

“The principal concern for me is if the baby will get enough nourishment from the placenta and if the blood flow is good enough,” he said.

All of the women who received womb transplants will need to take anti-rejection medicines, but Smith said data from women who have received kidney transplants doesn’t suggest their babies are at any increased risk from the drugs.

Brannstrom said using live donors allowed them to ensure the donated wombs were functional and didn’t have any problems like an HPV infection.

Doctors in Saudi Arabia performed the first womb transplant in 2000, using a live donor, but it had to be removed after three months because of a blood clot.

Brannstrom said he and his colleagues hope to start transferring embryos into some of their patients soon, possibly within months. The Swedish researchers and others have previously reported successful uterus transplants in animals including mice, sheep and baboons, but no offspring from the primates were produced.

After a maximum of two pregnancies, the wombs will be removed so the women can stop taking the anti-rejection drugs, which can cause high blood pressure, swelling and diabetes and may also raise the risk of some types of cancer.

And, well just listen to the lead guy commenting on the women in the study, essentially saying he has sacrificed their bodies for science. Did the women understand all this up front? Women on both sides? Those who donated and those who received donations? Somehow, I just don’t think so.

Brannstrom warned the transplants might not result in children but remained optimistic.

“This is a research study,” he said. “It could lead to (the women) having children, but there are no guarantees … what is certain is that they are making a contribution to science.”

Thank God we are sacrificing women on the sacrificial scientific altar. The operating table has always looked like a sacrificial site to me–how about you?



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