May I Have Your Uterus? The Contribution of Considering Complexities Preceding Live Uterus Transplantation

Article Summary by Lisa Guntram

Swedish researchers have investigated since the end of the 1990s whether uterus transplantation, in combination with IVF, can make it possible for women without a uterus to become pregnant. However, to participate in the such research in Sweden, it has been necessary that the recipient find a donor, preferably a relative, who is willing to donate her uterus. How do you ask someone to donate their uterus? What is it like? What challenges does this involve?

In this article I address these questions through an analysis of in-depth interviews with ten Swedish women who discovered in their teenage years that they had been born without a uterus. They had all considered uterus transplantation as a possibility and some of them had also gone through the procedure. In the I article show that not only receiving someone else’s uterus, but the very question of donation can spur emotional and relational difficulties. While such issues have been identified in research into other forms organ donation between relatives, this study demonstrates how uterus donation also raises other concerns, for example about the meaning of motherhood and the varying significance of a uterus through in different periods of life. On the one hand, the interviewees described how they experienced it as “obvious” that their own mothers should be willing to donate. On the other hand, such expectations made visible ideas about what a mother “should” be willing to sacrifice for her daughter and about not “needing” a uterus later in life.

Through the interviewees’ accounts I put the spotlight onto expectations and challenges with regards to availability, access and support and argue the importance of discussing such issues if uterus transplantation should become a part of routine medical practice.

 

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.

 

Lisa Guntram holds a position as associate professor at the Department of Thematic Studies and the Centre for Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Linköping University, Sweden. With extensive expertise in researching topics often considered sensitivesuch as organ transplantation and sexualityGuntram’s specific research interests include how embodiment, subjectivities and normativities are shaped in, and shape, health care practices. In her work, she often explores how individuals make sense of their bodies and medical encounters. In her previous research she has investigated experience of living with diagnosis within the umbrella term variations of sex development (VSD, aka DSD/intersex). In her current research Guntram investigates the emergence of uterus transplantation from different actors’ perspectives and norms in care for perineal injures.

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