The beginning of life is always a precious miracle. This time, it’s unprecedented.
“After all that I've delivered this is probably the most special one,” said Dr. Robert Gunby, through tears.
The special delivery came early last month at Baylor University Health Center in Dallas.
“They’ve both done fine,” said Gunby, medical director of Labor and Delivery at Baylor. “The mom has already gone home; the baby is on room-air and eating, and the mom is anxiously awaiting him to come home." Doctors would not elaborate on how many weeks into the pregnancy the baby was born, but did offer that it was ‘in the ballpark’ as the babies born to mothers in a similar clinical trial in Sweden.
What make this birth so unique is how much the mother and a stranger went through to arrive at this moment.
“Having the donor, then transplanting the uterus, then waiting to see if the uterus became functional, then waiting to see if we would have implantation of the embryo… and that the patient would become pregnant,” said transplantation surgeon Dr. Tiffany Anthony.
The mother, who requested to remain anonymous, gave birth by c-section to a healthy boy. She was born without a uterus, which is the case for one of every 500 women in this country. Last year, she became one of 10 women who would enter a clinical trial at Baylor to receive a uterus transplant from donors who are strangers.
In this case, doctors have revealed that the donor is a 36-year old nurse in Dallas with two young boys of her own who just wanted to share the feeling of motherhood.
“It’s not right for everybody because it is a major surgery- but we were overwhelmed by the initial interest,” said Kristin Posey Wallis, Obstetrics Research Nurse, speaking to the volume of women who contacted Baylor offering to donate their uterus.
The process of transplanting a uterus is not simple, and it is far different from any other type of transplantation.
“With a kidney transplant, you know whether it's working in seconds,” explained transplant surgeon Gregory McKenna. “This ultimately is a year plus before we found out, so... there's a big difference between seconds and years."
The only other successful cases like this have happened in Sweden.
“There, we had seven women with a viable uterus after the transplant. Six of them have delivered babies and two of them have delivered two babies each," said Dr. Liza Johannesson the OBGYN who was part of the original team to take on the Swedish clinical trial.
Doctors at Baylor recruited her to come to Dallas to serve as a bridge between obstetrics and transplantation. “This is doable-- this is a procedure that can be replicated in other centers,” said Johannesson, without hiding much excitement.
Baylor’s clinical trial is ongoing. So far, the team in Dallas has completed eight more uterus transplants with one additional woman currently in the advanced stages of her pregnancy. The other women are within the spectrum of the transplant process, although doctors would not specify how far along.
The latest birth is a sign of hope for women around the world who are told they can never experience giving birth biologically. Science just showed them that they can.