Women diagnosed with uterine factor infertility (UFI) in the United States are eligible for a new uterus transplant that will be carried out by doctors in Cleveland Clinic within the next few months.
UFI is manifested in women whose uterus was removed by hysterectomy, was damaged by an infection or injury and no longer functions, or in women who were born without a uterus, which is a condition called the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in every 4,500 women in the United States is born with this condition.
Doctors said women with UFI who undergo uterus transplants will not be able to become pregnant by sexual intercourse, and will need fertility treatments because their fallopian tube will not be connected to the surgically-implanted uterus.
These women will have to go through in vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure where the eggs that are extracted from the woman will be fertilized in a lab and then returned to the uterus for growth and development.
Even before the prospect of uterus transplants, infertile couples who want to have a baby resort to the IVF.
Along with IVF, there are other procedures that could help treat fertility problems for people who are not eligible to undergo uterus transplants. IVF is the most common technique among several methods which are called Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
One technique is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where one healthy sperm is injected straight into a mature egg. When semen quality is the problem, ICSI is often used for treatment.
Another technique is called assisted hatching. This method supports the implantation of the fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus. The procedure is done by opening the outer covering of the embryo, thus termed hatching.
Other conditions that may have caused infertility are being treated in several ways as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, women who are infertile because of ovulation problems may need one or two therapies to restore their fertility. One treatment is the stimulation of ovulation with the help of fertility drugs.
A second treatment is called intrauterine insemination (IUI) where healthy sperm are collected and placed directly into the woman's uterus around the time the ovaries release eggs.
Hysteroscopic surgery can also be used to restore fertility, especially in problems such as endometrial polyps, an intrauterine scar tissue or a uterine septum.
Meanwhile, experts suggest that people who are experiencing infertility problems should consult with their doctors to find out the benefits and health risks of each method.
Photo: Raúl Hernández González | Flickr