Derya Sert is the 21 year old who had the world’s first successful womb transplant at a Turkish hospital. On August 9th, 2011, doctors at Akdeniz University Hospital in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, successfully transplanted a uterus to Derya Sert without any major complications. This is a new precedence in the medical developments of women’s health in the Middle East region.
Hope for new mothers
Derya Sert was born without a uterus. According to statistics, 1 in every 5,000 women is born without a womb. Derya is the first woman in the world to receive a womb from a deceased donor, which raises hopes for millions of women to bear children.
Sert, a housewife, has been in the hospital for around six months and is beaming with the good news of a newfound role for motherhood. “Happiness, excitement all the feelings are mixed,” she said.
A world first medical achievement
A uterus transplant has only been attempted once before – in Saudi Arabia in 2000. That womb came from a live donor but it failed after 99 days later due to heavy clotting, media reports said. (MSNBC) Doctors had to remove the organ.
Micro-surgeon Omer Ozkan was part of the surgical team of a total of eight doctors and seven medical staff at Akdeniz University. Producing volunteers to donate the organ was far from easy.
“In that operation (2000) the vein was too short for the anastomosis and the uterus was not supported very well,” added gyneacologist Munire Erman Akar, from the same team.
The doctors are confident that they have now overcome those problems. By taking advantage of working on a deceased donor (cadaver), they were able to remove a wider tissue segment surrounding the womb to place it securely inside the body of the recipient, and longer vessels to support the organ.
Fortunately, the donor womb has been accepted by Sert’s body after a great deal of searching for solutions to her medical problem. “The womb has already become one of my own organs,” said Sert, We have been waiting for this day to come.”
How the transplant process works
People donating a loved one’s organs would be asked to donate the uterus too. A uterus stays capable of working functionally for about 12 hours after removal, so the recipient would need to be ready for surgery once the retrieval begins.
- The uterus is removed from a cadaver.
- During a hysterectomy procedure the donated uterus is transplanted.
- Embryos are implanted later: most deliveries are by caesarean section.
- Immune-suppressing drugs are taken until the donated uterus is removed
Test-tube baby or conventional pregnancy?
From a religious perspective, the womb transplant will raise questions of surrogacy and conventional methods of getting pregnant. Sert will have implanted embryos from her husband, which were produced before the surgery.
The doctors added that despite declaring it a success, the procedure is dependent on continuous use of immunosuppressive drugs, which have also improved since the first womb transplant. Omer Ozkan gives at least six to eight months before Sert can have the test-tube babies implanted for a good chance of getting pregnant.
During pregnancy, “there are many risks like congenital anomalies because of the immunosuppressive (drugs), and intrauterine growth retardation, preterm labor,” said Akar.
“The surgery was a success… [but] we will be successful when she has her baby,” Ozkan said. “For now we are happy that the tissue is living.” Sert has already started to menstruate, which is an important sign that her womb is working without any rejection. From the ultrasounds doctors were able to tell the endometrium lining is healthy.
Only three medical centers in the world work on womb transplants, the others being in Sweden and the United States, New York.
A woman can live without a womb, but the only chance for her to get pregnant is a transplant. As a young woman, Sert has healthy ovaries and so the uterus is the best option for becoming a natural mother. However, the doctors want to remove the womb again after she has had her healthy baby through c-section, to prevent any risks of rejection. If no pregnancy is achieved after two years, the uterus will also be removed to minimise risks of anti-rejections drugs.
Derya Sert’s world-first womb transplant is a remarkable milestone for realigning female biology, “We would be so happy if I could be a hope for other women.”
:: Al Arabiya
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