The trial is set to begin next Spring, with more than 100 women already identified as potential recipients of donor wombs. This means that by late 2017 or early 2018 the first UK babies could be born from a transplanted womb.
Last October a 36-year-old woman in Sweden became the first woman in the world to give birth to a baby after having undergone a womb transplant. Since then three more babies have been born to women who had the same surgery.
The operation takes six hours and will require women take immunosuppressant drugs during pregnancy to avoid any complications. After twelve months, the woman can then begin an IVF procedure. If all goes smoothly, a baby would be delivered nine months later by caesarean.
Couples are likely to be given the option of two pregnancies, then the womb would be removed so the woman doesn’t need to take the drugs for the rest of her life.
The procedure is different in Sweden as there are live donors, but experts in the UK believe that might be too risky in the long run. Instead, doctors will take wombs from donors who are brain dead but whose hearts are still beating.
More than 7,000 women are born without a womb each year and many more lose their womb to cancer later in life.
“As we have seen from the tremendously successful womb transplant programme being carried out by our colleagues in Sweden, this operation is clearly a viable option for those women who otherwise have absolutely no chance of carrying their own baby,” said Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist at The Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London who is leading the project.
To date, 100 women have been identified as potential recipient of donor wombs. According to Womb Transplant UK, they have to meet a series of criteria, which includes being aged 38-years-old and under, having a long-term partner and maintaining a healthy weight.
Womb Transplant UK still needs around £500,000 to cover the NHS costs and get the trial up and running.