November 26, 2015 11:08:51 am
A 22-year-old woman successfully received a womb donated by her mother after doctors performed their first uterus transplant in China, giving hope to more women struggling with infertility but the rare 14-hour-long procedure drew mixed reactions from public.
A robot assisted in removing the mother’s uterus before doctors transplanted it into the daughter’s body, said Chen Biliang, director with gynaecology and obstetrics department of Xijing Hospital in Xi’an, where the surgery was performed. Thirty-eight surgeons took part in the operation for which doctors prepared for two years, practicing it on goats, which are believed to share similar wombs with humans, Chen said.
“This is China’s first human womb transplant. Currently, the donor and recipient are in good condition,” said Li Xiaokang, deputy head of the hospital. After the daughter recovers, doctors will transfer frozen fertilised embryos into the new womb, allowing her to carry her biological child, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The embryos were created by the daughter and her husband using in-vitro fertilisation prior to the transplant. Uterus transplants are not new. In the 1960s, Britain and the US began to experiment with uterus transplants on animals. In 2000, the world’s first human womb transplant took place on a 26-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia. The transplanted uterus failed after three months and had to be removed.
In 2011, doctors successfully performed a uterus transplant on a woman in Turkey. Two years later, nine women in Sweden had successfully received transplanted wombs. The 22-year-old Chinese woman who underwent the surgery was born without a uterus but has her own ovaries and can make eggs. Her mother is 43.
Public opinion on human womb transplants, however, is divided in China. “Womb transplants can provide an alternative for women unable to have their own children due to problems,” said Chen, adding that using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy is not allowed in China.
In 2001, China issued a regulation to ban the practice to reduce the huge black market for underground surrogacy. According to Chen, 8 per cent of infertility in women is caused by womb problems. It is estimated that 100,000 to 120,000 girls in China are born without a functional vagina or uterus each year. But critics argued that it is a complicated and risky surgery.
“How do you connect complex blood vessels? Will the anti-rejection drugs harm a foetus?” user “bushiyongqi” asked on microblog Sina Weibo. Others pointed out that womb transplants, which are not aimed at saving life but improving the quality of it, are not worth the risk.
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