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Womb Transplant UK is given the go ahead to carry out pioneering surgery

Published: 08/10/2015

The last day of September was a busy one for Mr Richard Smith, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Lister Hospital.

He was inundated with calls and interviews from the media as his charity was given the go ahead to carry out the UK’s first 10 womb transplants, following the success of the procedure in Sweden.
Approval was given by the Health Research Authority – as part of a clinical trial – which launches in the spring. If the trial is successful, the first UK baby could arrive in early 2018.

Mr Smith, who was interviewed on Sky, Radio 4’s Today programme, by the BBC, ITN and Channel 4, has been working on the project for 19 years and will lead the transplant team. Camera crews filmed him in Theatres, in an outpatient consulting room and then recorded additional footage in the Lister Fertility Clinic’s lab. He also filmed a live piece to camera at 1:22pm precisely – the news was aired then and on news bulletins in the early evening and at 10pm. Thanks to all of you for your cooperation and assistance on the day! Mr Smith said childlessness could be a “disaster” for couples, but the technique would offer hope to those whose only other option is surrogacy or adoption. He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “Over the years I have quite a lot of crisis with this project… but when you meet the women who have been born without a uterus, or who have had their uterus removed for one reason or another, this is really heart-rending stuff and that is what has kept us going.” Around one in 7,000 women are born without a womb, while others lose their womb to cancer.

How would a womb transplant procedure work?

  • The womb transplant operation takes about six hours, with the organ coming from a donor who has died but whose heart has been kept beating
  • The recipient will need to take immunosuppressant drugs following the transplant and throughout any pregnancy to prevent their body rejecting the donor organ
  • The recipient’s health will be monitored closely for a year and then an embryo will be implanted in the womb using IVF
  • If all goes well the baby will be delivered eight months later by caesarean section.

Couples will be given the option of trying for two pregnancies before the womb is removed (hysterectomy) by a team of surgeons. This would prevent the need for the woman to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of her life.

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