Posted by: bridget | 15 January 2007

Sci-Fi Comes to the OB-GYN Ward

In more Mommy News, physicians in Manhattan are screening women for uterine transplants. Recepients are women whose uteruses were damaged or removed. Eventually, if the transplant is successful, the woman will receive in-vitro fertilisation in an attempt to get her to bear a child. Interestingly, the uterus will be removed immediately after delivery (via c-section) – the transplant is temporary. The procedure has sparked controversy in those who do not feel as if it has been adequately tested in animals and, even in the case of adequate testing, that women should not undergo transplant surgery for a lifstyle choice (i.e. pregnancy vis-a-vis adoption). Finally, many physicians (rightly) worry about exposing developing babies to anti-rejection drugs.

In many respects, the libertarians are right here: it’s the woman’s life and body at risk here. Women with other organ transplants who become pregnant would expose their children do anit-rejection drugs, and may do so without societal repercussions only for having a functional womb from the start. Furthermore, the idea that a woman can “just adopt” seems to be uniquely masculine – for men, there is no difference between surrogacy and pregnancy. Research shows, however, that newborns recognize and prefer their mothers’ voices and scents.

Yet, once a woman becomes pregnant, she is not alone in the risk of the pregnancy – and the child bears more of a risk than the mother. If the uterus needs to be removed during the first two trimesters, the woman will spend several days in the hospital; undoubtedly, the baby will die during that procedure. Unfortunately, the Baby Boomer generation is afflicted with a “me me me” mentality that precludes any reasonable discussion of the consequences to others.

Not mentioned in the Washington Post article: IVF is highly imperfect. 45% of babies born from IVF are part of a multiple birth (so one can assume that roughly 25% of women who undergo IVF give birth to multiple babies). A woman has the choice of either risking several rounds of IVF before pregnancy or risking bearing twins or triplets – a bad situation, considering the delicacy of the transplant.

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