The latest news on the fertility front is that a 25-year-old Swedish woman is going to have her 56-year-old mother’s womb transplanted into her. Apparently the age of the uterus is not a problem as it would be with eggs or ovaries. This procedure has been successful in animals, but not so far in humans. The only human attempt, which failed after four months due to complications, was in Saudi Arabia eleven years ago. However, doctors are optimistic that womb transplants will eventually be a viable solution for the more than 5,000 women each year who lose their wombs due to various diseases, not to mention women who are born without them.
Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore, director of gynecologic oncology at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, said the procedure should work because of recent developments. “It’s been my opinion and that of my colleagues both in London and Sweden, we all maintain that it can be safely done at this point,” Del Priore said. Del Priore has spent a decade researching the procedure mainly on behalf of his patients. He also expects that once the procedure is approved, donors will come forward out of their desire to help women birth a child.
At present the only way for a woman without a uterus to have a biological child would be by using a surrogate. Some would argue that even surrogacy is tampering with nature more than God intended us to. But I think womb transplants would be a better solution because they would remove the emotional aspects of surrogacy from the equation. A woman is often bothered by the fact that another woman bore and delivered her child.
Ever since the first “test tube” baby was born in 1978, the treatments for infertility have become more sophisticated and successful. It’s now possible to imagine a future with artificial wombs. Why not? At some point in the future, women may no longer be tied to reproduction. A man could oversee the growth of his child in an artificial womb. All he would need would be an egg donor. Women could pursue their interests and careers without having to undergo pregnancies. (And yes, it would remove the danger of maternal mortality and possibly even lower infant mortality.)
If women aren’t the only way to “grow” a baby, will men feel more invested in their offspring? Will women feel less invested? How would it change the way men and women see their roles in society? Will women continue to be seen as the primary caretakers? Or will men begin to feel just as responsible because they would truly, for the first time, have an equal role in reproduction?
I don’t expect to see a day when babies are grown in artificial wombs, but I do think I will see womb transplants become commonplace. And that’s good news for thousands of women.