Infertility is a cause of heartache for more than 6.7 million women in the U.S., affecting more than 12 percent of married couples, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some consider the issue to be taboo in today’s society.
“Infertility affects more people than we realize,” said Kenzie Klumker, a BYU-Idaho alumna. “My sister-in-law has been struggling with secondary infertility for three years now, and she hates that nobody is comfortable asking her about her journey.”
Recently, advances in medical technology resulted in the first uterine transplant in a 26-year-old American woman on Feb. 24.
Born without a uterus and with three adopted children of her own, doctors found her to be the perfect candidate, according to BuzzFeed news.
Previous to this, uterine transplants had been performed on nine Swedish women, four of which resulted in healthy pregnancies, according to BuzzFeed News.
Previous medical advances, such as in vitro fertilization and hormonal medications, have aided struggling couples with the trial of infertility.
Recent breakthroughs could make it possible to help couples struggling with the inability to have children.
“I have had many friends and family members who have struggled with infertility and it was during those dark days when I, too, felt I would never be able to carry my own child that I reached out to them for love and support,” said Lindsey Trujillo, a BYU-I alumna.
Uterine transplants are intended for temporary use, up to five years, due to doctors concerns of long-term medication exposure, according to NPR.
“I believe every woman deserves a chance to grow their own family if they want,” Klumker said. “There is so much heartache that goes undiscussed for these women that they deserve some support from the medical community.”
On March 1, five days after the procedure, the transplanted uterus had to be removed due to a sudden complication. Despite this failure, some doctors remain hopeful.
“Safety is foremost on my mind in terms of doing this,” according to Carolyn Alexander, a Los Angeles-based OB/GYN surgeon. “All of us in the science world are like, ‘This is so exciting,’ but a part of me thinks that if the first patient gets sick or has problems, it’s kind of hard to justify. It’s an amazing technology.”
Although such a procedure can provide many benefits, it does not come without a controversy.
Some people claim that while heart, liver and kidney transplants are vital to life itself, a uterine transplant is unnecessary or selfish because it is not needed to save one’s life, according to USA Today.
“I think it’s completely ethical,” said Catherine Vaigneur, a sophomore studying nursing. “Every woman wants to experience motherhood. I mean, it’s an intense procedure, but I don’t have a problem with it.”
Some doctors are still skeptical.
“Nobody would really want to have a uterus transplant unless they wanted to have a baby,” according to Dr. Sherman Silber, director of the St. Luke’s Hospital’s Infertility Clinic of St. Louis. “And if the drugs involved prohibit a pregnancy or are dangerous to a baby, it seems to me that the baby would be better off in a surrogate womb.”
Controversy or not, there is hope for the more than 5,000 women born each year without a uterus and the more than 12,000 women affected by cervical cancer each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I love the idea of it giving women hope again to carry and bring their own children into this world,” Trujillo said. “It is a God-given gift that all women should have the right to take part in.”