Study describes emotional reactions of women who have had uterine transplants
Becoming a mother after having had a uterine transplant, with the drastic change it brings in everyday life, gives a feeling of unreality beyond the everyday experience. A study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg describes the emotional reactions of women who suffered what was not possible less than ten years ago.
This qualitative study of women’s feelings about motherhood after uterine transplantation is now published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction. The first author is Stina Järvholm, associate professor of psychology at Gothenburg University and clinical psychologist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Järvholm belongs to the Uterine Transplant Research Group that has gained international attention for its medical advances, and has also distinguished itself for its research and publications on the long-term psychological impact of transplantation on donors. , recipients and partners.
The present study included seven women who had not had a uterus since birth or needed to have it removed surgically. All seven had lived in the belief that they would never be biological parents. When they received a uterus transplant in 2013, their average age was 29.
The results, based on annual interviews with the women up to 2018, clearly show that in many ways they experienced their situation the same way as most other mothers. Becoming a mother was both exciting and stimulating, and relationships were put to the test.
Anxiety and sense of surveillance
At the same time, the women had concerns related to the procedure itself. Some feared that the baby might be adversely affected during the pregnancy, and others felt that the pregnancy was not really theirs, given the extensive medical surveillance they were subjected to.
“I wonder if you love your child in a different way, for the simple reason that he was born the way he was,” one woman said in an interview. Another woman laughed a little when she said that sometimes when she was shopping with her child she would suddenly think, “What have I done? and “What if the people around me knew? “
Psychologically, becoming a mother after a uterus transplant seems to be a mixture of feeling like everyone else and, at the same time, struggling with a feeling of unreality. “
Uterine transplants from living donors in 2013 were part of the world’s first systematic scientific research project in this area. It was headed by Mats Brännström, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Gothenburg at Sahlgrenska Academy and Chief Physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
After the first birth in Gothenburg in 2014, seven more births followed before a woman outside Sweden gave birth to a child after a uterus transplant. To date, 12 babies have been born as part of the Swedish research project, while the global total is around 40.
Better support in difficult situations
Järvholm emphasizes that uterine transplantation is an advanced form of infertility treatment that spans many years and includes recipients, parties and donors.
“The results help us provide psychological support for times when women are under added pressure – when, for example, they repeatedly try to become pregnant unsuccessfully or have miscarriages – and for those who need to leave the hospital. project without becoming parents in as they had hoped, ”says Järvholm.
“The knowledge we have gained is also useful for the people who meet these women during their pregnancy. It helps them to provide good support according to the specific needs of the women and to understand that what was previously impossible becomes a reality”, she declared. concludes.
Järvholm, S., et al. (2021) Fighting for motherhood after uterine transplantation: a qualitative study of attempted pregnancy and the first years of parenthood after transplantation. Human reproduction. doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deab260.