A baby boy has made history after becoming the first child to be born following a robot-assisted uterus transplant.
Weighing just over 6lbs, the boy was delivered at 36 weeks by elective C-section on Monday and is reported to be perfectly healthy.
Fourteen babies around the world have previously been born after womb transplants, but the procedure is complicated and carries significant risks for the donor. Now, a team in Sweden has developed a technique where robotic keyhole surgery can be used. Five incisions – each less than an inch in length – are made in the abdomen, and the donor uterus, arteries and veins are recovered using robotic arms. These are operated by two surgeons using joysticks, guided by magnified video images.
The research was led by Mats Brannstrom, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy. With quicker recovery times and increased safety for the donor, he said the successful transplant and subsequent birth was an important step in the development of uterine transplants.
Safer for the donor
“For the first time, we’re showing that the less invasive robot-assisted surgical technique is practicable,” he explained. “The donor loses less blood, the hospital stay is shorter, and the patient feels better after surgery.”
The new mother received the uterus from her own mother in October 2017 after undergoing IVF treatment with her partner. The resulting embryos were frozen and implanted into the donor womb ten months later.
The baby is the ninth to be born in Sweden after a uterine transplant, but the first in what has been dubbed ‘The Robot Project’. The team now plans to work towards using robot-assisted keyhole surgery to transplant donor wombs into the recipients.
The next steps
There will also be more research into harvesting wombs from deceased donors, in the same way that other organs such as the heart and lungs are used for transplants. In December 2018, doctors in Brazil announced the birth of the first baby gestated in a transplanted womb from a dead donor. The Swedish team hopes to carry out its first such transplant later this year.
A potential increase in the number of donor uteruses would offer hope to thousands of people affected by infertility. In the UK, around one in every 4,500 women is born with healthy ovaries but no womb. While they can look at adoption or surrogacy, their only option for carrying and giving birth to their own child is to find a donor.