A team of more than 10 surgeons from Gothenburg University, who had trained for years, completed the pioneering procedure “without complications”.
The women will now wait a year for the two wombs to settle before doctors attempt to implant embryos. Both have already undergone IVF and the resultant embryos are being stored in the deep freeze.
One of the daughters had her uterus removed many years ago due to surgery for cervical cancer, while the other was born without the organ.Should the pregnancies be successful the women will give birth to babies who are genetically their own, as the doctors took eggs from their functioning ovaries.Michael Olausson, one of the surgeons, said:
“We are not going to call it a complete success until this results in children.”The university has decided to keep the identities of the four women, who are Swedish, a secret for now.
However, one of the two recipients, identified only by the name Anna, said she realised some may criticise the operation on ethical grounds, but that for her it simply meant restoring a bodily function, of which she had been deprived by cancer.
“It feels huge to be able to experience this,” she said in comments posted on the website of the Sahlgrenska hospital.
She said there were still no guarantees she and her boyfriend would be able to conceive. “We have received a wonderful opportunity, and if it works out it is a lovely bonus.”
Should the women go on to give birth it would mark a new chapter in the remarkable story of fertility treatment, according to Professor Simon Fishel, one of Britain’s leading IVF specialists.He said: “This is exciting for a group of women who require surrogate mothers to have children, due to womb defects or having no womb at all.”
Last year Care Fertility, the IVF clinics he runs, enabled 20 women to have children by implanting embryos created using their eggs into surrogate mothers.
Gothenburg University estimates 2,000 women aged 20 to 40 in Sweden could benefit from womb transplantation. On that basis, there are perhaps 10,000 in Britain who could do so.
However, Prof Fishel said there was still a long way to go before the technique was shown to work.
A transplanted womb could be rejected, he noted, or develop blood clots that required its removal.
Exactly that happened to a 26-year-old women in Saudi Arabia in 2000, three months after receiving the world’s first womb transplant, from a 46-year-old living donor.
Nor has there been any news from a Turkish hospital, which gave a 21-year-old woman a womb from a recently deceased donor last August.
Although the mothers of the Swedish recipients are likely to be in their 50s or 60s, Prof Fishel said the wombs of older women had been found to function well enough to bear healthy children.
Mats Brannstrom, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Gothenburg University, said he had been working on the project since 1999.
That year an Australian woman, whose womb he had removed due to cancer, asked him: “Why can’t you transplant the uterus from my mother into me?”
After talking to a colleague they thought: “Maybe this could be a possibility.”
He assembled a team to demonstrate the technique first in animals. They succeeded in mice and larger animals, before trying in baboons. The transplant was a success but the baboon has yet to successfully grow a baby.
But Liza Johannesson, a gynaecological surgeon, said human womb transplantation was “easier”.
“We think we know we have a good chance of getting children,” she said.