The first womb transplant into a transgender woman could happen imminently, according to one of the most senior fertility scientists in the US.
Since Malin Stenberg, a Swedish woman, made history by having a baby after a womb transplant three years ago, there has been speculation that the operation could also allow people who are born male but go through gender reassignment to give birth.
Richard Paulson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), said there was no reason to believe that the treatment could not work for transgender women.
Dr Paulson said ‘trans medicine’ had now become ‘mainstream’ and those who’d undergone gender reassignment surgery would inevitably want to be involved.
He also said there was ‘no anatomical reason’ why the procedure would not be successful, saying:
You could do it tomorrow. There would be additional challenges, but I don’t see any obvious problem that would preclude it.
I personally suspect there are going to be trans women who are going to want to have a uterus and will likely get the transplant.
While men and women have a different shaped pelvis, there would nevertheless be room for an implanted womb.
However, transgender women would have to give birth via cesarean section, he said, because of the shape of the womb.
Since 2014 there have been ‘at least five babies’ have been born to women who had received womb transplants in Sweden, reports The Telegraph.
There are womb transplant programmes in Europe – and in the UK, doctors have ‘permission by the regulator’ to begin their own charity-funded programmes.
British experts have warned pregnancy in transgender women may be ‘unethical’ as it would be ‘safer for the child to be born via a surrogate mother’.
The Telegraph says experts advised if womb transplantation for ‘natural women’ – i.e. people born a woman – becomes freely available on the NHS, hospitals may have to offer it to transgender women due to ‘equalities legislation’.
Transplanting a womb is a complicated, lengthy procedure and only a small number of women have undergone the procedure so far.
Professor Julian Savulescu, a Philosopher and bioethical specialist at Oxford University, said:
Uterine transplantation represents a real risk to the fetus, and future child. We ought avoid exposing fetuses and future children to unnecessary significant risks.
Although technically possible to perform the procedure, you would also need to be very confident the uterus would function normally during pregnancy.
Uterine rupture could cause the death or permanent disablement of the fetus.
He also said he believed public resources should ‘not be used to fund the procedure for transgender women’, although it is unclear why he thinks that.
The British Journal Editors and Wire Services