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Next Frontier in Fertility: Womb Transplants

5 years ago
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Bonnie, in vitro fertilization isn't quite the last stand for women hoping for some help to conceive. Doctors in Britain have announced that they have figured out a process to transplant wombs that could result in healthy pregnancies -- and they estimate they could do their first successful transplant within two years.

But, not everyone's excited about this development. "(Infertility) is not a fatal disease, and the suggestion that women could undergo major transplant surgery to fulfill their desire for a child may prompt unease," the BBC notes. Well, they've got that right. New fertility treatments do tend to spark ethical debates and prompt a wariness that other medical treatments don't, at least in part because of the idea that motherhood should be easy and instinctual for women.

Much like the delightfully circuitous booklet on approaching puberty from Kotex circa 1959 that Bonnie directed us to (favorite line: "You're wearing your hair differently, too -- or at least, you are thinking about it"), modern motherhood has its own new myth: Pregnancy should come naturally, easily, and it should be immediately followed by a warm, maternal glow that carries with it not only happiness, but knowledge of the right age to introduce your baby to solid foods and dozens of other parenting issues. The reality is that pregnancy and motherhood are both going to have difficult moments, and women should be able to get assistance before, during and after their pregnancies.

Certainly, like any other new medical treatment, new fertility treatments need to be monitored for safety. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recently -- and rightly -- threw Los Angeles Dr. Michael Kamrava out on his ear for implanting the six embryos that resulted in Nadya Suleman bearing octoplets, instead of the recommended one or two embryos.

And womb transplantation is probably a little further away than the doctors' announcement suggests -- two years strikes me as a pretty optimistic time frame, given that only recently performed their first successful surgery on a rabbit. Still, it could be another important step toward making fertility decisions based on medicine, not on mythology.
Filed Under: Health Care, Woman Up

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