First U.S. woman undergoes uterus transplant

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A young woman wants to give birth to her child but physically was unable to until she became the first woman in our country to undergo a uterus transplant.

"I believe the birth of my daughter was the happiest moment of my life by far, and so I can understand what the birth of a child means," says Dr. Andreas Tzakis of the Cleveland Clinic.

Tzakis is part of the team responsible for the nation's first uterus transplant and says the 26-year-old recipient is doing well.

"Gradually she feels better. So, we're pleased with the way she's doing," Dr. Tzakis says.

The woman who received the transplant has functioning ovaries but no uterus. The goal of the transplant is to give her a womb, allowing her to become pregnant using in vitro fertilization so she can carry her own biological child.

"They really crave that experience of feeling the baby grow, feeling the baby kick and move and carrying the biological pregnancy themselves," says Dr. Rebecca Flyckt from the Cleveland Clinic.

During the nine-hour surgery, a uterus from a deceased donor was transplanted into the recipient's pelvis. Blood vessels were connected, gynecological parts were sutured and the organ was secured. 

"She's going to start recovering. Her ovarian function will return, produce estrogen, the estrogen will stimulate the uterus to produce the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, and then she will have a period. The uterus is an amazing organ. It's basically on auto pilot," explains Cleveland Clinic Dr. Tommaso Falcone.

Like any transplant, she'll take medication to prevent her body from rejecting the organ and over the next year she will be closely monitored.

"We want the organ to be mature and stable, before we can then implant the embryos hoping for pregnancy," says Dr. Rebecca Flyckt.

The procedure is experimental and is not without its critics who question the ethics of the surgery.

"When we look at uterine factor infertility, we find that these women, their adult lives, have been shaped by the fact that they have this source of infertility. While it's not life threatening, it's life-altering in so many profound ways," says Cleveland Clinic Dr. Ruth Farrell.

Researchers hope to complete 10 uterus transplants as part of their study. They say the interest in the procedure has been overwhelming. Unlike other organs, the uterus transplant is designed to be temporary. After one or two babies, the organ will be removed or simply rejected by the body.