You may have recently heard about uterine transplants, a groundbreaking surgery sure to push the limits of reproductive medicine. For those struggling with infertility, this may seem like a radical option. So how risky are uterine transplants? And what other options could women consider as they try to get pregnant?
“Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic have plans to be the first in the United States to transplant a uterus into a woman who lacks one,” said Joseph Garza, M.D., chief fertility specialist at San Antonio’s Advanced Fertility Center. “But the process may be extremely dangerous.”
Uterine transplantation may be performed on healthy women who then face the risks of surgery and anti-rejection for a transplant they do not need to save their lives, such as a lung or heart transplant. After the transplant recipient gave birth to one or two babies, the uterus would then be removed so the woman could stop taking transplant anti-rejection drugs.
“As both a father of four and the first physician to perform the two-egg donor In Vitro Fertilization procedure in Texas, I deeply understand the desire to be a parent,” Dr. Garza said. “However, there are many other infertility treatments available to patients before considering something as drastic as a uterus transplant.”
More than 50,000 women in the United States struggle with infertility. At the Institute for Women’s Health, services offered include In Vitro Fertilization, genetic and nutritional testing, donor sperm services and donor egg banks, among other treatment options.
“Infertility is not just a woman’s issue – one out of seven couples struggle to conceive,” Dr. Garza said. “A successful pregnancy involves understanding both partners’ health needs and a taking customized approach to fertility care. We recommend a variety of treatment options tailored to the individual woman or couple.”
Dr. Garza also utilizes a holistic approach when treating conception difficulties. “It’s important to consider the patient’s entire life, not just this part of it,” he said. “The more you know about your patient’s medical history and lifestyle, the better you can address their individual needs.”
While uterine transplants may be the latest news in reproductive medicine, their success rates and widespread availability remain to be seen. In the meantime, thousands of women already benefit from existing fertility treatments and the promise of parenthood just over the horizon.
Dr. Joseph Garza is chief fertility specialist at the Advanced Fertility Center. He has been practicing fertility and reproductive endocrinology since 1983. To make an appointment with Dr. Garza, please call 210.616.0680.