Jennifer Gobrecht was born with a congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome. This means she had ovaries but no uterus.
A miracle trial
For the longest time, Gobrecht believed she would never be able to have children. In 2017, however, Gobrecht was selected to be a patient in a trial at Penn Medicine for uterine transplantation.
“For women with uterine factor infertility, uterus transplantation is potentially a new path to parenthood – outside of adoption and use of a gestational carrier – and it’s the only option which allows these women to carry and deliver their babies,” said to the Independent Dr. Kathleen O’Neill, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
There have been about 70 such transplants worldwide but most are from living donors. Gobrecht's case was unique because the donor was deceased making her the second woman in the U.S. to receive such a transplantation. The first was last summer at the Cleveland Clinic.
But far from being more complicated, transplantations from deceased donors may actually be better.
Dr. Paige Porrett, an assistant professor of transplant surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s co-leaders, told the Independent that there is a major advantage in using a deceased donor.
Surgeons are able to harvest more of the blood vessels attached to the organ. Using a deceased donor's uterus also avoids exposing healthy people to the risk of complicated surgeries.
In Gobrecht's case, she went through a 10-hour surgery and had the first embryo implanted just six months later. It was a successful one.
However, Gobrecht encountered all the complications one encounters with a transplant including having to take immunosuppressant medicine so her body did not reject the uterus. Once she had given birth, the uterus was removed.