History of Womb Transplantation Research

Since the 1970s a number of teams around the world have been researching the possibility of developing a womb transplant procedure and, unfortunately, often without collaboration between those teams.

The majority of the research published in the 1960s to the 1980s, involved transplantation of the entire female genital tract (ovaries, womb, cervix and upper vagina) in a range of different mammals. Transplant research, as a whole, has also tended to focus on life-saving transplantations (heart, kidney, liver) with womb transplant research being rather limited especially following advances in IVF techniques.

However, since the 1990s, tremendous advances have been made in the fields of transplantation and reproductive medicine – in particular, the first live birth after IVF treatment in a woman who had a transplanted kidney and in recent years a woman who had received transplanted ovarian tissue from her sister, gave birth to a healthy baby at The Portland Hospital in London.

In 2000 the world’s first womb transplant was performed on a 26 year old woman in Saudi Arabia. She had lost her own womb as a result of heavy bleeding following the birth of her child. However, the transplanted womb survivedfor only 99 days and it has now been acknowledged that the attempt was premature and our research shows the failure of the blood supply to the womb was predictable. Although this attempt was unsuccessful, much was learned and it was the stimulation for extensive research to continue around the world. In December 2010, our colleagues in Sweden were able to report a pregnancy as a result of a womb transplant on a rat.

The UK team collaborates closely with Professor Liza Johannesson and Professor Guilliano Testa of the renowned Baylor Scott White Institute in Dallas Texas. The Institute has the largest live donor womb transplant programme in the world.

We believe that with the continued advances in transplantation techniques, improved methods of controlling the immunology of transplantation, and advances in IVF technology, uterine transplantation (together with assisted conception) can bring an end to Absolute Uterine Factor Infertility for some women who currently have no chance of having their own child.

A Brief History of Womb Transplant Operations

The first Womb transplant in modern times was carried out on 26 year old woman Saudi Arabia in 2000. The Patient had undergone a hysterectomy but the transplant was a failure caused by predictable problems with the blood supply to the transplanted womb. The operation was deemed inappropriate and unwise with a predictable outcome.

In 2011 Turkish surgeons transplanted a womb from a deceased donor into a 21 year old patient, Derya Sert who became pregnant. After a series of miscarriages, she finally gave birth in June 2020.

Following successful pregnancies in animals, a research team in Gothenberg, Sweden led by surgeon Mats Brannstrom carried out a series of successful womb transplants from living donors related to the recipients starting in 2012. Several babies were born as a result of this ground breaking surgery. Brannstrom’s team has since performed a series of uterus transplant operations with donor wombs from both living and deceased donors.

In 2015 surgeons in China performed the first womb transplant in Asia. Robotic-assisted laparoscopic uterus retrieval was performed on the donor. After five unsuccessful attempts, a pre-frozen embryo was successfully implanted in the patient’s womb on June 13, 2018 and a healthy baby boy was delivered as a result.

A uterus transplant was performed for the first time in the USA in February 2016 at Cleveland Clinic. However the transplanted uterus was removed due to a compromised blood supply to the uterus secondary to an infection.

Between 2016 and 2020, the team at Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, USA, performed 20 uterus transplants involving both living and deceased donors. There have been 14 children born from 12 uterus transplant procedures.

In 2017 surgeons transplanted a mother’s womb intro her daughter at the Galaxy Care Hospital at Pune, India. Other centres in India have since performed the operation.

There have been uterus transplants performed by teams across other parts of the world too, with published cases in the Czech Republic, Brazil, Germany, Lebanon, Serbia, France and Spain.

As at 1st June 2023, there have been around 100 uterus transplants performed worldwide and about 50 healthy babies have been born as a result.