Deborah, 36, was born ruthlessly due to Rokitansky syndrome, which affects one in 4,500 women. In March 2019, she underwent the first uterus transplant in France (donated by her 57-year-old mother at the time), at the hands of the head of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Foch Hospital, Professor Al-Ayoubi. The operation took 10 hours and involved six surgeons (three French and three Swedes), 20 nurses and an anesthesiologist.
Al-Ayyubi describes the uterus as a “life carrier”, so its eradication does not pose any problem to the health of the female, but of course she will no longer be able to conceive. In Deborah’s case, she was monitored for a year until she recovered from a normal menstrual cycle. She took medications that help lower her body’s immunity so that the implanted uterus would not be rejected. After monitoring showed that things were going well, she was artificially inseminated with a “frozen embryo”.
Rokitansky’s disease is a birth defect that affects the female reproductive system. It is a rare condition that occurs before birth and causes the vagina and uterus to be absent or partially developed. A girl born with this condition maintains normal levels of hormones, integrity of the ovaries and external reproductive organs, and a normal development of female sexual characteristics. In Deborah’s case, she only needed a womb to provide for this environment in which a fetus would develop. The operation is not the first of its kind in the world, as the first birth occurred after a uterus transplant in Sweden in 2014 and the living donor was at the age of 61 years.
Al-Ayoubi explained that “theoretically, a patient who has undergone a uterus transplant can keep it, but because of the immunity medications she is taking, there is no longer a need to keep the implanted uterus after the goal or task that she undertook has ended,” and thus it will be removed. However, Deborah will keep her implanted uterus for childbearing again as she has another frozen embryo, which will be removed after that.