China carries out first successful mother-daughter womb transplant

A 22-year-old woman who was born without an uterus now has the chance to bear a baby after doctors successfully implanted her mother's womb, the first such case in China and only the 12th worldwide.

Yang Hua (not her real name) became concerned that she had not begun menstruating at the age of 20. A medical check-up in 2013 revealed that she was born without an uterus or a vagina.

"I felt so desperate after the diagnosis but saw a glimmer of hope when doctors told me I could still have my own baby by receiving a transplanted uterus," she said.

Yang's 43-year-old mother decided to donate her uterus after learning that she might be able to help her daughter.

Fortunately, the mother's and daughter's HLA (human leukocyte antigen) matched which allowed for the procedure to be carried out.

While waiting for the transplant, Yang got married and received her husband's full support for the operation.

The 14-hour transplant procedure was carried out on Nov 20 by a team of 38 medical experts from 11 departments with the assistance of the surgical robot da Vinci.

On Wednesday, the hospital announced that there was no sign of organ rejection and that both patient and donor had recovered well.

South China Morning Post reported that eggs had been harvested from the young woman's functioning ovaries and were kept frozen after they were fertilised.

These frozen embryos will be implanted in her womb once she recovers from the surgery.

Doctors explained that uterus transplantation is a highly complex procedure because the organ is located deep in the pelvis with fine blood vessels that are very difficult to cut and stitch.

The possibility of a transplanted uterus being rejected by the recipient's body is also much higher than that of other organs, said Dr Chen Biliang, director of obstetrics and gynaecology at the hospital.

It has been reported that only 11 other cases of uterus transplantation had been carried in the world, of which eight organs survived and one resulted in the birth of a baby.

The first baby conceived in a transplanted womb was born in Sweden in October 2014. The child's mother is among nine womb transplant patients in Sweden.

In 2011, the recipient of a transplanted womb in Turkey miscarried after falling pregnant through in-vitro fertilization.

While the first such operation was performed in Saudi Arabia in 2000, the recipient had to have the transplanted womb removed three months after surgery due to a blood clot.

China has no finite statistics but it has been estimated that 100,000 to 120,000 of the total girls born annually in the country suffer from the congenital absence of an uterus and vagina.

Yang Hua's successful operation brings hope to those born without the reproductive organs and those whose uterus have had to be removed due to illness, Chen said.

Her case has also moved many Internet users on Chinese social media.

"It's the mother love that makes Yang's mother choose to transplant her womb to her daughter and Yang chooses to endure every possible pain she may suffer to have her own baby", a Weibo user commented.