Here’s something to debate around the dinner table: uterus implants. Because now, they are officially A Thing in the U.S.. After nine hours under the competent knives of Cleveland Clinic surgeons this past Wednesday, a 26-year-old woman received a new womb. (Sweden, meantime, has been there, done that — they’ve been transplanting ‘em since 2014.)
What’s the debate? Quite simply, no one needs a uterus to live. In fact, many woman live without them, post-hysterectomy. As Dr. Michael Green told NPR in 2012, “It’s a quality-of-life issue. This is in that same category. So we’ve opened the door. We’ve stepped through it. And this is one of the next logical things that people might do.”
But for women who face infertility, a transplanted uterus is a shot at experiencing the miracle of creating life that many take for granted. “I crave that experience,” one woman explained to the New York Times in October. “I want the morning sickness, the backaches, the feet swelling. I want to feel the baby move. That is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.”
As for the woman with the new uterus, she’ll have to make a full recovery from the surgery before doctors can attempt to implant embryos created via IVF. And if implantation is successful, she’ll have to take anti-rejection medication throughout her pregnancy. All in all, her uterus implant will be a temporary thing — after a couple of pregnancies, it will have to be removed or allowed to disintegrate, so that she can stop taking the anti-rejection medicine.
The question of whether uterus implants will become a widespread operation in the U.S. is still up in the air. As of now, the Cleveland Clinic has been granted permission from the hospital’s ethics panel to perform the surgery experimentally up to 10 times. After that, the decision of whether to offer the operation as a standard procedure will be made.