Lebanon: Mother-Daughter uterine transplant raises hope for infertile

Lebanese doctors, working in cooperation with a Swedish team, have completed a uterus transplant for the first time in Lebanon. The rare and difficult procedure for infertile women was conducted last month at Bellevue Medical Center (BMC) in Mansourieh, located just east of Beirut.

The recipient, a Jordanian woman who suffered from uterine factor infertility, received a new uterus donated by the patient’s mother, hospital officials confirmed.

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“Today, we are ensuring that Lebanon is not just a beacon among the hospitals of the Arab world,” BMC CEO Nayef Maalouf said. “Today we are putting Lebanon on the international map.”

Officials at the hospital believe the operation could help tens of thousands of women in the Middle East who are infertile as a result of an absent or non-functioning uterus.

Collaborating with Swedish medical experts, BMC in 2016 started to explore the procedure. The University of Gothenburg had already been researching the benefits and drawbacks of the transplant research since 1999, a program that ultimately resulted in the world’s first child born from a successful uterus transplant in 2014. Thus far, eight children have been born in Sweden using the method.

Randa Akouri, a Lebanese-Swedish doctor who participated in the operation, told a local newspaper on Tuesday that the transplant reflects the region’s values. “In the Middle East, the family is very important,” she stressed. “When a woman can’t become pregnant, it’s a very bad thing for her socially. Family planning is very important for a Middle Eastern woman.”

Dr. Amel Alghrani, an expert on uterus transplants at the University of Liverpool, highlighted that the procedure is particularly valuable for Muslim women, given that surrogacy is forbidden in many Islamic countries. “In Islam, surrogacy is widely regarded as haram [forbidden], and there have been fatwas issued to this effect. For women in the Middle East and especially in Muslim countries, uterus transplantation potentially represents an alternative way women unable to gestate can still achieve genetic motherhood and reproduce.”

The procedure in Lebanon was not the first attempted uterus transplant in the Middle East, but hopes are high that it might result in the first successful subsequent birth. A similar operation was conducted in Saudi Arabia in 2000, but the uterus needed to be removed shortly thereafter due to blood clotting. Another attempt occurred in Turkey in 2011, but the uterus in that case was provided by a donor with a disease, thereby precluding childbirth.
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