Sunday, April 14, 2024

“The end of my journey”: This woman in Alabama, who had a transplant to have a baby but didn’t use IVF, loses her dream of having another child

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Elizabeth Goldman is running out of time to have another baby using the uterus she received in a transplant two years ago. Her plans for more IVF treatments were stopped by a recent court ruling, and it’s causing a significant delay that her family can’t afford.

When she was 14, she found out she was born without a uterus and thought she could never get pregnant. Despite this, she dreamt of carrying her own baby and felt devastated.

Things changed in 2020 when she learned about the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s uterus transplant program. She and her husband moved to Birmingham, leaving everything behind, to enroll in the program and chase their dream of starting a family.

After going through the IVF process and receiving a uterus transplant, she became the 36th woman in the U.S. to have a donated uterus. In October 2023, she gave birth to her daughter, Zari Grace.

Now, Elizabeth and her husband want to give Zari a sibling. However, their plan is on hold due to a court ruling in Alabama that considers frozen embryos as children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor law.

This ruling caused fertility clinics, including the one where Goldman’s remaining embryos are stored, to pause their services. As a result, she can’t move forward with an embryo transfer, leaving her in a difficult situation and at risk of medical complications.

Elizabeth emphasizes that this might be her only chance to have another baby. The clock is ticking, and she’s on a tight timeline, according to experts like Dr. Kathleen O’Neill from the University of Pennsylvania.

A uterus transplant is temporary, and typically, women are allowed two live births before the uterus is removed. After the first delivery, there’s a recovery period before attempting a second pregnancy.

The goal is to have two healthy babies in the shortest possible time before removing the uterus. Delays can be harmful, especially since the required immunosuppressant drugs can have both short- and long-term effects on the body.

Elizabeth undergoes regular diagnostic testing to monitor her health, but the current situation puts her dream of having a second child in jeopardy. She hopes to continue maintaining the transplanted uterus for as long as she is healthy, knowing that removing it would mean losing the opportunity forever.

A uterus transplant is a procedure that some women choose when they can’t have babies naturally. It’s often for those with a condition called uterine factor infertility. These women want to have their own babies but can’t get pregnant. Some have a uterus that doesn’t work right, while others had it removed.

Around 5% of women worldwide have uterine factor infertility, according to UAB Medicine. The transplant isn’t to save lives but to give them – a life-giving transplant, as Goldman calls it.

The first baby from a transplanted uterus was born in Sweden in 2014. About 100 such transplants have happened globally, as reported by UAB Medicine.

Getting pregnant after a uterus transplant involves a few steps. After the transplant, women wait three to 12 months before trying to get pregnant with embryo transfer. The pregnancies are high-risk, and babies are delivered by Cesarean section because women with uterine factor infertility can’t give birth normally.

Some women prefer uterus transplant over surrogacy or adoption, despite potential complications. For them, carrying and giving birth to their baby is very meaningful. Goldman, part of a trial at UAB Medicine, had her transplant covered, but she and her husband paid around $60,000 for the IVF needed for pregnancy.

UAB Medicine says there are four active uterus transplant programs in the U.S., but the recent decision in Alabama makes it tough for these patients. Lawmakers in Alabama passed bills to protect IVF, hoping to reopen clinics soon.

However, there’s concern that some lawmakers don’t understand the science behind these procedures. The recent court decision in Alabama, based on the belief that “life begins at fertilization,” may impact families wanting children through IVF.

Goldman emphasizes the difficulty of the IVF journey, stating that unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard to understand the physical, emotional, and mental toll it takes. Despite legislative efforts to protect IVF, uncertainty and fear remain for both providers and patients.

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