India’s first uterine transplant baby, weighing 1.45 kg, was delivered through a Caesarean section at Galaxy Care Hospital in Pune on Thursday. The baby girl was born 17 months after Vadodara resident Meenakshi Valand (27) underwent an uterine transplant. Doctors said the baby, who is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the mother are stable.
On May 19 last year, Ms. Valand became the second woman in the country to undergo a uterine transplant, which was carried out by a 12-member team headed by surgeon Dr. Shailesh Puntambekar. A day earlier, Solapur resident Shivamma Chalgeri underwent the procedure. Mothers of the two women donated the uterus in both cases. Six uterine transplants, including Ms. Valand and Ms. Chalgeri, have been carried out so far at the hospital.
Ms. Chalgeri and Ms. Valand received the embryo transfer in January this year. Ms. Chalgeri’s pregnancy failed two months later and Ms. Valand’s first embryo transfer failed too. She received a second embryo transfer on April 7. The baby was due in the first week of November, when it would be 34 weeks old.
Gynaecologist Dr. Milind Telang said, “Ms. Valand’s blood pressure began to rise suddenly. We were constantly monitoring the baby’s growth and we found that the fluid around the baby had started reducing. This meant that the baby’s further growth would not take place in the womb. We decided to perform a C-section. The baby was delivered prematurely, but she is doing fine. She has been given colostrum feed and other feeds through a nasogastric tube. She has been put in an oxygen hood.”
Dr. Telang said that during an uterine transplant, nerves are not transplanted and women do not experience labour pain. The procedure is a temporary solid organ transfer. After pregnancy, the uterus is removed so that the women do not have be on immuno-suppressant drugs. However, in Ms. Valand’s case, doctors will retain the uterus for the next six to seven months as a precautionary measure. If the prematurely born baby fails to survive, Ms. Valand’s can decide on taking another embryo transfer.
‘The only answer’
For Ms. Valand though, nothing is more important than bearing her baby in the womb for nine months. Dr. Puntambekar, who is also the medical director of the hospital, said for women like Ms. Valand, who was suffering from Asherman’s Syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus), there is no option other than surrogacy or adoption. He said, “Uterine transplant is the answer for women who are keen to have babies in their womb. We can attempt at least four embryo transfers for a successful pregnancy.”
The first uterine transplant was performed in 2002 in Saudi Arabia and the second in 2011 in Turkey. Both were cadaveric transplants as the uterus was taken from a brain dead patient. Both transplants failed due to rejection of the organ by the recipient’s immune system. In 2014, Dr. Mats Brannstrom carried out the first successful live donor uterine transplant in Sweden.