Media Monday: New Frontiers in Women’s Reproductive Health

This headline caught my attention the other day: Woman gives birth after womb transplant, in medical first.

Today, news services are running an update: Five British women to be given womb transplants: ‘Miracle’ UK babies could be born in just three years.

As someone who worked with women prior to, during, and after childbirth my initial reactions included words like amazing and hopeful. Then came the concerns related to cost issues and the prohibitive nature of this use of technology for so many women who would desire to bear a child, yet couldn’t afford it. I also have to acknowledge the real probability that questions and concerns will arise surrounding the relation to a bio-engineering framework if this procedure really becomes successful.

The first article itself mentions cost issues as well as medical concerns about the viability and functionality of a transplanted uterus. The ethical issues have to be considered as well. How does one approach a women about donation of her uterus if she is still of childbearing age, yet waiting until after menopause may compromise the integration of the transplant as well as the ability of the transplanted uterus to be a healthy, viable organ.

The second article address a bit more on the ethics of using a uterus from a living versus a deceased donor. The British boards seem to favor using a donated uterus from a deceased, young, healthy donor at this point. Consultant Richard Smith is noted to believe that “Given a choice, most women would rather carry and deliver their own baby. If you met the women who are born without wombs, or have had them removed, then you know what has driven me to work for 19 years on this. These are people who have a deep need to have their own baby and deliver it themselves.”

I hope that if these procedures continue successfully more discussion will follow with added perspective by the men who father and support the women choosing this way to have a child.

I have three children. I wanted to be pregnant, and like Smith suggests, very strongly wanted to carry my own children. I can only imagine, for women who like myself want to carry and bear a child, just how painful it must be to know that you do not have that option. I look at this process as another reproductive choice that women should have available to them.

 

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3 thoughts on “Media Monday: New Frontiers in Women’s Reproductive Health”

  1. I agree infertility must be incredibly painful for many (most?) people. I’d like to focus another point you raise: “cost issues and the prohibitive nature of this use of technology for so many women.”

    This is what always nags at me when I read about breakthroughs in fertility treatments. Given the disastrously piecemeal approach to health insurance in the US, most interventions–from in vitro to (I’m sure) womb transplants–function as commodities to be purchased rather than care available to those in need.

    In a climate where some politician recently talked about wanting to require poor women be sterilized before they can receive government assistance, when California just passed a law outlawing involuntary sterilizations (in 2014! because this was happening!), I often find myself uneasy about new breakthroughs like this one. Bearing (or NOT bearing) a child as one chooses is either a universal human right…or it is a privilege based on wealth and access. It cannot be both.

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    1. You’re absolutely correct, and in this case it will be another way to buy and sell human life because it won’t be looked at as a need but a privilege as you note, and we know who makes the decisions surrounding privilege in our society. I had a moment when that nasty term eugenics popped into my head as well after reading the first article…

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      1. I find myself deeply torn on these issues. On the one hand, I in no way believe medical advances should be put on hold until we work out our political and social ish. On the other, I’m concerned that increasing the *theoretical* possibility that female fertility can transcend any physical impediment–including, to a degree, limitations due to aging–just adds to the already overwhelming message that to be a real woman, one MUST be a mother. A biological mother. Because what’s stopping you? (Other than perhaps age, state of able-bodiedness, poverty, other structural issues, desire…)

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