By Richard Balagtas
Katherine Don writes from a perspective shared by many women today, one concerning the difficulties associated with conception. After Don suffered from her third consecutive miscarriage, Don’s mother offed to help in any way she could, even if it meant taking on the role of a surrogate. Was this even possible given her advanced age? What were her other options?
In 2011, Kristine Casey, at age 61, gave birth to her own granddaughter after her daughter Sara underwent years of fertility treatments without success. Typically, “surrogacy isn’t allowed in post-menopausal women because of the need for hormone supplements and the associated health risks – but occasionally doctors make exceptions, especially for relatives.” Today, due to advancements in medical treatment, procedures such as post-menopausal surrogacy are becoming more frequent.
Mats Brännström, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, successfully transplanted a uterus from a 61-year-old woman into a 36-year-old woman. The recipient was born without a uterus but with functioning ovaries. In September, she gave birth to a baby boy after conception was achieved by in-vitro fertilization.
However, uterus transplants are far from commonplace. One reason is that these transplants come with many risks. Patients are required to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organs. Additionally, uterus transplants, both real and artificial, are not likely to become widely available due to a lack of funding. Uteruses, unlike organs such as hearts, are not necessary for life. According to Dr. Arthur Calpan, the director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, “here [in the United States], we have healthcare access problems, and transplanting a uterus would be in the bottom quarter of my priority list for what we need to spend money on. Does that mean only the rich would get it? Yes. And that’s just the reality of it.”
However, a possible solution to these many problems exists in the form of a bioengineered uterus. This would allow recipients “to avoid immunosuppression, and get rid of the risks of surgery for the person donating the uterus,” according to Dr. Caplan. Although research into this solution is currently underway, it will likely be decades before this treatment becomes available.
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