This womb transplant breakthrough could open up pregnancy to all sexes

Oct 24, 2017
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This womb transplant breakthrough could open up pregnancy to all sexes

The live birth of a baby girl in São Paulo is a medical advance that may change the definition of motherhood

A year ago, a baby girl was born by caesarean section in a hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, after being conceived by IVF. What made the birth unique was that the child had been gestated in a womb transplanted from a 45-year-old woman who had died.

Births resulting from uterus transplants have been happening since 2014, but for all previous children conceived this way, the donor was alive. That, understandably, places severe limits on the availability of the organs. This demonstration, reported in the Lancet – that a uterus can be successfully preserved and transplanted from a deceased person – could relax the supply bottleneck for women otherwise unable to conceive because of uterine problems.

The recipient in this case was a 32-year-old born with a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. It affects one in 4,500 women and means that the womb fails to develop. Before she was given the transplant in 2016 it was unclear if a uterus could remain capable of gestating a baby if it had been deprived of blood supply for some time after the death of the donor. The baby weighed 2.5kg at birth on 15 December 2017, and both mother and child remain healthy. The transplanted uterus was removed from the mother during the delivery.

All this sounds like good news for women who, because of injury, illness, surgery (hysterectomy) or congenital conditions, would need a transplant in order to bear a child.

But not everyone will see it as an unqualified good. Since the first uterine transplants, opinion has been split about their merits. Some bioethicists point to risks of complications for the recipient and the foetus, as well as the high cost. Some question whether these drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits when the alternative of surrogacy exists – although that of course has its own problems, and it would be naive to draw an equivalence between them.

But uterus transplants also raise complicated questions for feminism. “There is a feminist position that supports the uterus transplant, arguing that it allows women … to be included in an experience that is, for some, central to and defining of femaleness,” wrote body theorist Sharrona Pearl. But, she added, that is part of the problem: “The uterus transplant supports the social norm of pregnancy as fundamental to being a woman.” Uterus transplants imply that the risks of the procedure are worth it, says Pearl, “in order to fulfil women’s alleged biological destiny as carriers of future children”.

This tension is nothing new. Ever since the early discussions of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as IVF in the 1920s, they have split opinion about the implications for gender roles and female choices in particular. The idea promoted then by biologists such as JBS Haldane of gestation in artificial wombs – ectogenesis – was welcomed by progressives as an emancipating technology that would free women from the duties of childbearing and the associated constraints on opportunity.

In the 1970s, Shulamith Firestone, author of The Dialectic of Sex, was an enthusiastic advocate of ectogenesis for those reasons, saying that only by being relieved of responsibility for childbearing could women hope for social equality. To Firestone, pregnancy was “barbaric” and tyrannical. Others feared that an artificial womb (which remains beyond the means of today’s technology) would sever the mother-child bond and deprive women of their role. “If that last power is taken and controlled by men,” wrote sociologist Robyn Rowland, “what role is envisaged for women in the new world?”

IVF itself has elicited similar concerns. For all that it offers some women their only chance of pregnancy and childbirth, it can seem too much like the commodification of a woman’s body by a male-dominated techno-elite. In the mid-1980s, the German radical feminist group Rote Zora bombed IVF clinics and stole documents, while the feminist network FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering) has long expressed scepticism about assisted reproductive technology from feminist and socialist perspectives.

There’s a danger, as with objections to uterus transplants, that, as social historian Naomi Pfeffer has charged, the critics consult the views of all women except those who actually suffer from infertility. But it’s quite right that advances in ART be interrogated as much more than neutral medical options.

By making pregnancy potentially available to trans women and even to cis men (with hormone treatments), uterus transplants could challenge social norms and preconceptions, just as IVF has done by creating new family structures. But equally, by insisting on a particular route to motherhood these transplants could reinforce those norms and stereotypes, just as anthropologist Sarah Franklin has argued that anxieties about IVF have motivated social conformity in the way it is presented and practiced.

As a man, I know I will be sensitive to only a fraction of these currents. But I hope they can be discussed frankly, tolerantly and with compassion. Few issues are more emotive than conception and child-rearing – but that’s precisely because there are no easy answers.

• Philip Ball is a science writer

Source: The Guardian

They are going to have weird looking babies together.
 
Feb 13, 2012
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How exactly does this work? If you transplant a uterus into a biological male, where do the eggs come from? I'm not really that informed on biology so pardon my ignorance, but if a kid was born this way, wouldn't the mother technically be the person who donated the uterus?
 
Oct 21, 2018
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How exactly does this work? If you transplant a uterus into a biological male, where do the eggs come from? I'm not really that informed on biology so pardon my ignorance, but if a kid was born this way, wouldn't the mother technically be the person who donated the uterus?
That’s like saying a surrogate mother is the “real” mother of a child.

This would be an absolute dream come true for me if it happened. I would cry tears of joy.
 
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That’s like saying a surrogate mother is the “real” mother of a child.
It depends on how the surrogate works. If the surrogate mother gives the egg cell, then the surrogate mother would be the biologocial mother of the child, if the egg cell is transplanted from the legal mother, then she is also the biological mother and the surrogate is only the carrier. If the eggs are coming from the donor of the womb, then the donor of the womb is the mother in that sense. But such a procedure would still open up the experience of carrying a child to transgender women, so I could still see it as desirable for them.
 
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Feb 13, 2012
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#7
That’s like saying a surrogate mother is the “real” mother of a child.

This would be an absolute dream come true for me if it happened. I would cry tears of joy.
Well because I'm just not understanding where the eggs come from. In the story in the OP, the woman who received the donor womb, still had her own ovaries. But if you were to transplant a womb to a biological male would that actually work?
 
Sep 25, 2015
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#11
How exactly does this work? If you transplant a uterus into a biological male, where do the eggs come from? I'm not really that informed on biology so pardon my ignorance, but if a kid was born this way, wouldn't the mother technically be the person who donated the uterus?
If it's equivalent to IVF then the embryo could be created using the sperm and eggs of the intended parents, then gestated in the transplanted womb. The child would then be biologically related to both parents as per traditional methods.

That’s like saying a surrogate mother is the “real” mother of a child.
Real is a subjective term in this case, hence why we have terms like biological mother / surrogate mother / adoptive mother to specify when multiple parties are involved.
If a child is created with an egg from biological mother A, gestated in the womb of surrogate mother B, and raised by adoptive mother C, which one is the "real" one?
 
Jan 9, 2018
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The headline / thread title is a real stretch, as most of the article content simply concerns transplants between women, with that tiny bit of speculation thrown in at the end for clickbait purposes.

In any case, attempting any of this on men would be a bioethics nightmare in the making. There are countless studies continuing to emerge on how deeply the overall biological conditions of a mother (eg. the slight variance in hormones based on her age at gestation) impact the development of children; the womb itself is only one part of the overall ecosystem that a woman's distinct bodily composition prepares for childbirth. Any scientist attempting to run against that experimentally should meet with the same career termination & criminal prosecutions as you see when human genetic engineering is attempted.
 
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The headline / thread title is a real stretch, as most of the article content simply concerns transplants between women, with that tiny bit of speculation thrown in at the end for clickbait purposes.

In any case, attempting any of this on men would be a bioethics nightmare in the making. There are countless studies continuing to emerge on how deeply the overall biological conditions of a mother (eg. the slight variance in hormones based on her age at gestation) impact the development of children; the womb itself is only one part of the overall ecosystem that a woman's distinct bodily composition prepares for childbirth. Any scientist attempting to run against that experimentally should meet with the same career termination & criminal prosecutions as you see when human genetic engineering is attempted.
I agree. I don't think we are at transwomen having babies just yet.

Not even sure why they would want to outside of trying to prove some stupid point. Childbirth and labor don't seem like fun things. With adoption, surogates etc why go through that all. And it doesn't seem like this would be like a cis pregnancy. You would still need eggs from somewhere and then the sperm. So from my understanding no in out in out with no protection and then boom baby in your fake womb.
 

Ailynn

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#14
This would be an absolute dream come true for me if it happened. I would cry tears of joy.
I'm right there with you! Although I'm probably too old now even if the technology was readily available and affordable...if it were ten years ago I would have been in tears at the possibility.

I've dreamt of having a child on more than one occasion, feeling such intense love and connection...only to wake up feeling a devastating sense of loss.
 
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I'm right there with you! Although I'm probably too old now even if the technology was readily available and affordable...if it were ten years ago I would have been in tears at the possibility.

I've dreamt of having a child on more than one occasion, feeling such intense love and connection...only to wake up feeling a devastating sense of loss.
With this technique you are probably never too old (as long as you are alive). Though I could imagine that from a certain age it could be too much stress for the body. It is pretty amazing what the body can endure, in terms of moving the organs around and stretching the belly like crazy; but after a certain age I imagine it could be too much of a risk.
 
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Aug 29, 2014
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I'm looking forward to nearly completely artificial birth when you go to the doctor "hey I want to have a kid" and then they grow your child in an artificial womb at the hospital until it's ready to come out. No need for sex (though I don't mind a "celebration" for the decision) or for the woman to carry the child for 9 months.
 
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I'm looking forward to nearly completely artificial birth when you go to the doctor "hey I want to have a kid" and then they grow your child in an artificial womb at the hospital until it's ready to come out. No need for sex (though I don't mind a "celebration" for the decision) or for the woman to carry the child for 9 months.
Could be wrong but I think the child picks up on alot from the mothering carrying it. All the noises and what not. Probably movement as well. I can't really see this being replicated (well) in an artificial environment.

Also sounds weird as hell.

It also weirds me out to think a trans man could potentially get pregnant for real in the future. I'm all for the rights and all that and I have respect for these people. Let them do what they want. I just... Yea. It's fuckin weird.
 
Aug 29, 2014
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Could be wrong but I think the child picks up on alot from the mothering carrying it. All the noises and what not. Probably movement as well. I can't really see this being replicated (well) in an artificial environment.

Also sounds weird as hell.

It also weirds me out to think a trans man could potentially get pregnant for real in the future. I'm all for the rights and all that and I have respect for these people. Let them do what they want. I just... Yea. It's fuckin weird.
I wouldn't be surprised if they played the sound of the parent's heart beating or the voice of the parent for the baby to listen to over and over again or even require the parent to speak to the baby while it is still growing.

edit: mostly I want this for the balancing of the sexes. This would allow women to not have to miss work when they want a kid and a man wouldn't require a woman in order to have a kid as well .
 
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I agree. I don't think we are at transwomen having babies just yet.

Not even sure why they would want to outside of trying to prove some stupid point. Childbirth and labor don't seem like fun things. With adoption, surogates etc why go through that all. And it doesn't seem like this would be like a cis pregnancy. You would still need eggs from somewhere and then the sperm. So from my understanding no in out in out with no protection and then boom baby in your fake womb.
Because we have gender dysphoria and desire to be as close as possible to having female bodies, generally speaking. Plenty of cis women want to have kids despite how difficult it is. Why would the same not apply to a good chunk of transwomen?

We never said giving birth was “fun”. Its a mental need brought on by a legitimate condition
 
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The headline / thread title is a real stretch, as most of the article content simply concerns transplants between women, with that tiny bit of speculation thrown in at the end for clickbait purposes.

In any case, attempting any of this on men would be a bioethics nightmare in the making. There are countless studies continuing to emerge on how deeply the overall biological conditions of a mother (eg. the slight variance in hormones based on her age at gestation) impact the development of children; the womb itself is only one part of the overall ecosystem that a woman's distinct bodily composition prepares for childbirth. Any scientist attempting to run against that experimentally should meet with the same career termination & criminal prosecutions as you see when human genetic engineering is attempted.
Nailed it. This has nothing to do with trans women and everything to do with cis-women. On its surface, it seems promising for women who cannot have kids and haven't had success with alternative methods.

That someone would even attempt to try with a trans woman (and someone will) is disturbing.
 
Oct 21, 2018
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Nailed it. This has nothing to do with trans women and everything to do with cis-women. On its surface, it seems promising for women who cannot have kids and haven't had success with alternative methods.

That someone would even attempt to try with a trans woman (and someone will) is disturbing.
I see plenty of people on this forum even say “maybe one day science will allow it.”

I don’t see why it can’t be beneficial to both cis women and transwomen, who are also women.
 
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Aug 15, 2018
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I personally think this is a great thing that could be developed in the hopeful near future for women having trouble conceiving. However, I don't think this is something to be used on men. It seems highly unnatural for a man to carry a child considering we don't have the right parts and are not built for these things. Alot more goes into pregnancy than simply carrying a child. Complications could easily arise and excluding all the ethical questions this seems dubious at best.

This remind me of another good thing that may be coming in the near future that could help women in pregnancy: artificial wombs. Recently there has been a breakthrough and a premature lamb was able to continue to gestate and grow for a little while in an artificial womb. In the future, this technology could hopefully save the lives of premies and remove the "necessity" (I don't ever believe it to be so) of abortion if one can just transfer the child to this womb.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pb...keeps-premature-lambs-alive-weeks-humans-next

The future of fertility is looking bright so far.
 
Likes: Ailynn
Feb 22, 2018
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Even easier will be artificial wombs and those will be the norm because no sane person would opt for the pain and mess of pregnancy if they could just grow their baby in a cabinet/plastic sack. Combine that with genetic engineering, and you get easy to develop designed babies.

Blave new world indeed. So blave.

 
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Because we have gender dysphoria and desire to be as close as possible to having female bodies, generally speaking. Plenty of cis women want to have kids despite how difficult it is. Why would the same not apply to a good chunk of transwomen?

We never said giving birth was “fun”. Its a mental need brought on by a legitimate condition
So trying to prove a point like I said. If they found a way to make dudes pregnant I would in no way want to go through that.

But if transwomen want to go through 9 months of pregnancy, and then labor so be it I just won't ever understand it. And sorry not sorry but if your reason for bringing another life into this world is to help with YOUR condition (not YOU specifically) I think you need to rethink why you are trying to create a new life. Children aren't cures for diseases or there to make you feel better.

If the science got there and people actually wanted to go through with it in the end its their choice.
 
Apr 18, 2014
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#34
Even easier will be artificial wombs and those will be the norm because no sane person would opt for the pain and mess of pregnancy if they could just grow their baby in a cabinet/plastic sack. Combine that with genetic engineering, and you get easy to develop designed babies.

Blave new world indeed. So blave.

Throw some VR goggles on me and I'd never need to leave my womb...
 
Oct 21, 2018
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So trying to prove a point like I said. If they found a way to make dudes pregnant I would in no way want to go through that.

But if transwomen want to go through 9 months of pregnancy, and then labor so be it I just won't ever understand it. And sorry not sorry but if your reason for bringing another life into this world is to help with YOUR condition (not YOU specifically) I think you need to rethink why you are trying to create a new life. Children aren't cures for diseases or there to make you feel better.

If the science got there and people actually wanted to go through with it in the end its their choice.
You are incredibly naive if you think having children isn’t inherently selfish.

Obviously I want to be able to care for a child and provide it with a happy life and love. But what reasons do you think people have kids.

If you can understand why a cis woman would go through 9 months of pregnancy and labor, then you can understand why a transwoman would. It’s literally the same reasons.

Also, you’ve revealed your flawed logic. On one hand you say it doesn’t make any sense to you why a transwoman would want to go through all the pain of childbirth, but then on the other you say it’s wrong to want a child for selfish reasons.

Obviously people should only be having kids when they are ready. But if you wouldn’t chatisize a cis woman that very much wants children, or even a cis man, why look strangely on a transwoman?

You also probably don’t understand why I need to dress like a woman, why I need to use the woman’s bathroom, and why I needed to have all my legal information changed. Why does it matter?
 
Oct 21, 2018
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#37
Dudes will die of organ rejection.
We definitely don’t know enough to say that. I won’t discount the possibility of transwomen’s bodies thinking the babies is a foreign object and rejecting it.

But I throw all my support behind funding and research into the issue, and ways it could be correct if it was a possible complication.
 
Aug 24, 2016
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Hate to throw some of the more uh, lala land people under the bus and crush their dreams but Women have several ways their body is build to "handle" a child growing in them and men do not, in fact, the region of the women that does allow it has more obstruction when looking at that are in a man.

A mans body has been studied numerous time to not be able to handle carrying a baby (much less having anything internally to sustain the baby as its growing) so again, mass difference between men and women being overly simplified for political purposes.

@Ailynn if you had a partner you could use some of the newer DNA stuff to still have a kidd, or you could use a surrogate but i suppose that's not what you're really looking for.
 

Ailynn

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Jan 1, 2017
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#42
Hate to throw some of the more uh, lala land people under the bus and crush their dreams but Women have several ways their body is build to "handle" a child growing in them and men do not, in fact, the region of the women that does allow it has more obstruction when looking at that are in a man.

A mans body has been studied numerous time to not be able to handle carrying a baby (much less having anything internally to sustain the baby as its growing) so again, mass difference between men and women being overly simplified for political purposes.

@Ailynn if you had a partner you could use some of the newer DNA stuff to still have a kidd, or you could use a surrogate but i suppose that's not what you're really looking for.
With all the poor children in foster homes, there certainly is a need for it! My best friend and I have been through training for it, and I may still look into that option when/if I ever become financially stable enough for it. Those poor kids need a lot of love for sure... :messenger_sad_relieved: