One of America’s first uterus transplant recipients is trying for miracle baby number 2, Newsweek can reveal.
Born without a uterus, Amanda became a mother for the first time in 2021, after giving birth to daughter Grace. Part of a pioneering clinical trial, Amanda was one of 33 women in the U.S. to have undergone the procedure, and only one of around 80 recipients worldwide.
Grace was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 2020, with frozen embryos created by using Amanda’s egg and husband John’s sperm. John, a friend, had supported Amanda during her transplant journey and throughout her mother’s cancer treatment, and the pair fell in love. Almost two years on from Grace’s birth, and the family is happier than ever.
“Grace is doing amazing,” Amanda told Newsweek. “She’s walking and saying a lot of words and running around and she’s a little fashionista. She likes to pick her clothes every day, which is a little interesting. But then she also loves trucks, and dirt and rocks. She’s just really fun.”
The couple has decided it’s now time to try and grow their family, with Amanda having undergone her second IVF transfer on November 23. John has two sons from a previous relationship who are close in age, and the couple would like Grace to have the same experience.
“Not everyone that gets a uterus transplant gets the baby at the end, let alone a second chance to try,” said Amanda.
“I don’t take the opportunity or my health for allowing me to ‘try’ again for granted.”
How Can You Be Born Without a Uterus?
Amanda discovered at age 17 that she had been born without a uterus. As her periods hadn’t started, she was sent for tests that showed she has Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a congenital condition where reproductive organs do not develop properly. It affects roughly 1 in 4,500 women. MRKH sufferers can also be born with an underdeveloped or non-existent vagina but often have functioning ovaries that make IVF a possibility.
The world’s first-ever birth after a transplant using a uterus from a donor occurred in Sweden in 2014. Between 2016 and 2021, 33 women have received womb transplants in the United States. For 74 percent of recipients, the transplanted uterus was still functioning a year later, with 83 percent of these going on to deliver live-born infants. As of July 2022, 19 of the 33 women have given birth, delivering 21 babies in total.
Amanda was one of 10 women chosen for the Cleveland Clinic’s trial, the first of its kind in the U.S.
If a second pregnancy is achieved, Amanda will have the transplanted uterus removed after the birth so she doesn’t have to take anti-rejection medication anymore.
“It will be a bittersweet day, as I would keep this uterus for the rest of my life,” she said.
“But I will also be thankful not to live my life taking medications with side effects around the clock.”
Becoming a Mom After Years of Fertility Struggles
Over the years and throughout her fertility struggles, Amanda’s mother and sisters had been her rock. Her mom even traveled with Amanda to the clinic for consultations. Sadly, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly after the trial began. She passed away from cancer eight days after Amanda received her transplant, while she was still recovering at the Cleveland Clinic.
Although she never got to meet her granddaughter, Amanda said her mom was a huge part of her fertility journey, even unintentionally choosing Grace’s name.
“My mom had these visions or dreams while she was in hospice,” she said.
“She had these hallucinations that she met my daughter and had a teddy bear made for her through the hospice program, so it felt like she was a part of my journey.
“I hadn’t had the transplant yet. I was listed on the transplant list for years and it didn’t feel very hopeful at that point that the transplant would even happen, but she was so sure that I’d have a little girl named Gracie.
“It doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard without her. It’s difficult that I can’t just call my mom and ask for help, but I feel that she’s had a very big part in my journey and that brings me peace and even joy.”
Amanda and John’s embryo was successfully implanted in her new uterus six months after the surgery, but the pregnancy came with additional complications. As well as severe nausea that caused her to “throw up day and night,” Amanda developed hernias that caused pain. Doctors monitored her closely throughout. Despite the difficulties, Amanda “never took a moment for granted.”
“I knew it was high risk, but I was willing to take that risk to have her in my arms,” she said. “Even on the hardest days, I’m still grateful.”
Trying for a Second Baby
Unfortunately, the second transfer attempt did not go as smoothly as the first. Amanda doesn’t think the process has worked this time, but is choosing to think positively.
She told Newsweek: “We feel like the information we have now will give us better odds next time,” she said. “We have four embryos left and are hopeful one will take.”
For most of her adult life, Amanda has been volunteering with infertility groups, acting as a counselor for other people with issues conceiving.
“If my story can inspire even one person, then it was worth it,” she said.
“Even if I hadn’t ended with a baby, I would want people to know that uterus transplants are a viable option. I am passionate about women knowing the options they have available.”
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