AN Australian woman will use her own mother’s womb to have a baby.
In an Australian first, intensive care nurse Melinda Arnold, 34, will undergo a womb transplant after her mother, Denise Allen, agreed to donate the organ to her.
Mrs Arnold, who was born without a womb but with ovaries that produce eggs, twice tried unsuccessfully to use her mother as a surrogate and adoption attempts also failed.
Her and husband Andrew’s last hope of becoming parents rest with Swedish doctors, who with the help of Australian colleagues, will perform one of the first ever womb transplants next year.
Denise Allen said she worries about the risks, but knows her daughter is determined.
“She was three years old when she first expressed a desire to be a mother,” Denise said. “It has been a long journey and both she and Andy have suffered a lot of sadness and disappointment.”
The couple has been married for 12 years.
A decade ago, Mrs Arnold’s mother was given permission to act as a surrogate for her by the Victorian courts.
“I was devastated when the surrogacy didn’t work,” Denise said.
“There was a bit of a feeling that I had failed her, but Melinda never saw it that way.”
A third attempt, using a friend as the surrogate, also failed to achieve the desired pregnancy. The couple moved interstate hoping to adopt, but after almost three years gave up that dream and returned to Victoria.
Mrs Arnold said she feared her dream of motherhood was slipping away.
“I know some people see this as risky,” she said.
“If I had a child I would never take that risk, but I don’t.”
Mrs Arnold said she would never forgive herself if she did not give it a go.
“Mum and I talked about a transplant years ago, before we even knew if it would be possible.”
Denise said becoming a mother was so much a part of the fabric of her daughter.
“People looking at her would never know the heartache that she carries about, but I see the chink.
“I also know that if anyone can do this, my daughter can.”
The transplant team is being led by Mats Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Gothenburg University in Sweden, who was in Australia last week for a conference.
He said most areas of infertility could now be treated, but not women irreversibly infertile due to a missing womb. Transplants are a solution, he believes.
“Since the final aim is to accomplish motherhood, success should be measured by full-term pregnancies that result in healthy offspring,” he said.
The team wants patients and donors counselled independently so that they are aware of the risks and the chances of success.
Patients would need to wait 12 months after the transplant before attempting a pregnancy through IVF.
Frozen embryos would be created before the transplant to show a couple could conceive and the recipient would need to take immuno-suppressant drugs to stop rejection.
Queensland obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Ash Hanafy is working with Professor Brannstrom and said he would like to bring the surgery here to help more people like Mrs Arnold.