When Jennifer Gobrecht was 17, doctors told her she would never take her own child.
But on thursday Penn Medicine researchers in Philadelphia announced that Mrs. Gobrecht He had given birth to a son by caesarean section in November, the second baby in the United States who was born using a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor.
"We were more than lucky" Mrs. Gobrecht said.
Gobrecht, now 33, was born with a congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which means he was born with ovaries, but without a uterus.
In 2017, she and her husband were exploring the possibility of implanting frozen embryos in a substitute when Ms. Gobrecht was selected to be the first patient in a trial at Penn Medicine that hopes to help five women who otherwise could not lead to Your own children .
Uterine transplantation, as the process is known, is a relatively new frontier in reproductive medicine. Doctors say it could help women who have a condition called uterine factor infertility, which means they were born without a uterus, had it removed or suffered uterine damage. According to Penn Medicine, about 5 percent of women of reproductive age worldwide are affected.
"For women with uterine infertility, uterine transplantation is potentially a new path to paternity, in addition to the adoption and use of a gestational carrier, and is the only option that allows these women to carry and give birth to her babies, "said Dr. Kathleen O & # 39; Neill, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and who helps run the trial.
There have been about 70 of these transplants worldwide. But most of the programs have focused on living donors, Penn researchers said. (In some cases, the donor was the recipient's mother). In the United States, there have been six cases of living donors.
In 2017, the first known world A woman who received a uterus from a deceased donor gave birth to a six-pound girl in Brazil. Last summer, the Cleveland Clinic announced that a girl was born after a uterus transplant from a deceased donor, the first such birth in the United States.
Dr. Paige Porrett, An assistant professor of transplant surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and one of the study's co-leaders says that the main advantage of using a deceased donor is that doctors can remove more blood vessels attached to the organ.
This gives surgeons larger vessels to use during the procedure, in which the donor organ vessels are sewn together with the patients.
The use of deceased donors also eliminates the unnecessary surgical risks that healthy patients would otherwise suffer to donate, said Dr. Porrett.
Despite these risks, more than 80 women offered to donate a uterus for the trial.
Dr. Porrett said there was not enough data to determine if there was a difference between transplanting an organ from a living or deceased donor.
The total cost of the procedure is unknown, said Dr. O & # 39; Neill, who added that the hospital was paying all five cases at trial.
She estimated that similar procedures cost $ 60,000 in the United Kingdom and more than $ 200,000 at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, which also performs the procedure.
Dr. O'Neill, who has struggled with her own infertility problems, said the team had successfully transplanted a uterus into a second patient, but refused to provide more details.
In 2018, Ms. Gobrecht underwent 10-hour surgery to transfer the donor uterus. About six months later, doctors implanted the first embryo, which finally succeeded.
"I felt the real glow," he said about being pregnant with his son, Benjamin.
"Feeling Benjamin's little kicks and seeing all the ultrasound is priceless for me," he said.
But there were difficult parts. Gobrecht had to take immunosuppressive medications and follow a strict regimen to prevent his body from rejecting the organ.
"It can be a lot," he said.
She said she was inspired and supported by other women who had undergone the procedure and wanted to help advance science for others.
"I hope this process can be another conventional option for couples who expect to have children who do not necessarily have the option to do so in a standard and natural way," he said.
After Mrs. Gobrecht gave birth to her son, doctors removed the uterus.
On Thursday, her husband, Drew Gobrecht, said the couple enjoyed changing diapers and feeding their son at home outside of Philadelphia.
"It has been an abnormal journey so far," he said. "We are excited about normal things."