UTERUS TRANSPLANT: WOMAN DONATES HER UTERUS TO YOUNGER SISTER WHO NOW HAS A SON

Lolita Wästerlund with her son Cash-Douglas and sister Linda, who donated her uterus
Family ties: Lolita Wästerlund (right) with her son Cash-Douglas and sister Linda, who donated her uterus Photograph: Johan Bavman for the Observer.



Some women are born without a uterus. When she was 14, Lollo was told that she would never be able to carry her own baby because even though she had ovaries, there was NO UTERUS but her sister who already has four children, donated  her own  uterus to enable her ounger sis bear kids of her own... See her cute son in the pic? Read her story below...

Few pregnancies are entirely straightforward, but Lollo’s was an especially discombobulating one. It was not the birth so much, though she did experience the dreaded pre-eclampsia and her son arrived hurriedly a few weeks premature. Much more significant was that Lollo herself was born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, a condition that affects around one in 5,000 girls. MRKH sufferers have ovaries, but no uterus. Lollo also had a shortened vagina and only one kidney. She found out when she was 14, in the early 1990s, when she went to the doctors with a pain in her ovaries. After exploratory surgery, she was told she would never be able to get pregnant or carry a
baby of her own.
Recalling the birth of her son, Cash-Douglas, Lollo says: “Just the whole experience was too big. I guess it’s big for everyone, but it was too big to go from, I’m never going to be able to have a kid… To actually having a kid inside me. My own baby.”
Lollo, 36, is the beneficiary of the pioneering technique of uterus transplant surgery. Developed in her homeland Sweden, a trial was started with 10 women. The first gave birth in September 2014 and there have since been another four healthy babies born. One of those women is now pregnant for a second time. The uteruses come from live donors – in Lollo’s case, both her sister and her mother offered theirs and the doctors from the University of Gothenburg selected her sister’s as she was younger. She is four years older than Lollo and already has four children.
‘It’s been life saving for me’: Lolita Wästerlund with her young son, born with her sister Linda’s uterus.
“My sister always told me she was going to give me her uterus,” says Lollo. “She said it the first time when I was 14. It’s funny because as teenagers we were always fighting, but when my eldest nephew was born, something happened. I had two choices: either to turn my back on him, because it hurt so bad; or embrace him. And that’s when my sister and I got close, like real close. I chose to embrace him, but it was a tough decision and she had a hard time telling me she was pregnant.”
As far back as she can remember Lollo had wanted children of her own and, until recently, she was a kindergarten teacher. After her diagnosis with MRKH, she recalls feeling profoundly miserable. She sought out psychologists, but they couldn’t help with her grief. She shut her family out. Dating was problematic because there never seemed a good moment to say to a guy that she couldn’t have children. “Should I tell them at the beginning?” she says. “Or should I tell them later? But then it would feel like I’m cheating or lying.” She met her current partner Patrik a decade ago and warmed to him immediately when he told her that he never wanted to get married or have kids. “So that sorted it out,” Lollo giggles.
Patrik was in for a shock. Lollo first heard about uterus transplants in 1999, after her mother read a story in the papers about a Swedish doctor, Professor Mats Brännström, who was starting experiments on animals. Lollo called him and they had a brief conversation. Years later, she spotted another article which reported that Brännström had received ethical permission to begin trials on humans. Lollo and Patrik, who was warming to the idea of parenthood, had already discussed and rejected adoption. Lollo and her sister toyed with the idea of surrogacy, but it is illegal in Sweden. The trial seemed to be her last hope.
Uterus transplants have a well-earned reputation as a highly complex procedure. The operation was first attempted in Saudi Arabia in 2000, but the implanted organ had to be removed after three months. A woman in Turkey successfully became pregnant in 2011, but miscarried soon after. Using live donors – as the Swedish team was attempting to do – requires surgeons to remove a small section of the donor’s vagina without disturbing the vital organs clustered around it. The surgery on Lollo’s sister, for example, took around 12 hours.
It wasn’t straightforward for Lollo, either. She, her sister and Patrik all had to pass rigorous physical and psychological assessments before they were accepted on the Gothenburg trial. The doctors then collected 10 eggs, which they fertilised with Patrik’s sperm and then froze. The embryos were implanted one at a time. “I was getting so scared because he was the sixth try,” Lollo recalls. “He was number six embryo. So each time the test was negative, I was sad all over again.”
Uterus transplants are set to become a reality in Britain soon, too. Last September, a team led by Richard Smith, a gynaecologist and cancer specialist based at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, was given approval by a research ethics committee to do 10 transplants. The donors will not be live; instead the uteruses will be taken from heart-beating brain-dead cadavers, removed as part of the standard organ-retrieval process. The 10 patients for the trial have not been finalised, but Smith has been meeting potential candidates for years and the numbers have been whittled down from over 500 to 104 to 46. He hopes it will begin on 1 September.
Smith believes there might be 10,000 women in the UK aged between 20 and 40 either without a uterus or with a malformed one. So, what if someone reading this article would like to put themselves forward? “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is slightly late in the day,” says Smith over the phone, as he waits to board a flight to Cork to deliver a lecture on fertility-sparing surgery. “But do remember that we’re trying to set up a programme, which will do 10 experimental cases and hopefully we’ll have many babies. Then in 2020 we hope we will have a sustainable national programme, which will go forwards for keeps.”

READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/10/uterus-transplants-my-sister-gave-me-her-womb-fertility

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