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At 15, Chelsea learned her uterus never fully formed, something that affects 1 in every 5,000 women. She was told she would never be able to carry her own child. After unsuccessfully having a baby via a surrogate, Chelsea began researching the option of a uterine transplant, and she was determined to be a candidate for a study.
A match was found for her and she underwent a 10-hour procedure, not knowing if her body would reject the donated uterus or if she would end up being able to carry a baby.
Chelsea says it took a few months for her body to adjust to the medications following her transplant. but a month after the surgery she had her first-ever period, and says she felt "complete as a woman." Then, 6 months after the surgery, she was able to start trying to get pregnant via IVF, and she is elated to share that on her second attempt she got pregnant. Chelsea and her husband welcomed their son Telden, 4 months ago.
"It's just an amazing thing, I still don't believe it," she says of the success of her amazing uterine transplant and becoming a mother."It's all I've ever wanted."
We also welcome Cheryl, who donated her uterus that Chelsea received. She says she was inspired to donate after learning about the Penn Medicine Uterus Transplant Program on TV. "I never felt any regret. I just felt in my heart... that this was going to happen and this was going to work," she says of the transplant, which required her to undergo a 14-hour operation to remove her uterus. She says she took comfort knowing even if the transplant was not successful, her involvement will have contributed to science and could eventually help someone else trying to conceive.
After a year, Chelsea and Cheryl began communicating and the mom says her donor will always be a big part of her family's life, and they call her "Auntie Cheryl." "It's better than I could have ever imagined," Cheryl says, telling The Doctors her family considers Chelsea's family part of their own.
Lead investigator from the Penn Uterus Transplant Trial Dr. Kathleen O’Neill says the first uterus transplant took place in 2013 in Sweden, and so far, there have been approximately 30 uterine transplants in America, and just 70 worldwide. Dr. O’Neil explains these women were determined to be a good match because they had the same blood type and they found Chelsea's antibodies in her blood would not react negatively to Cheryl's uterus. Additionally, uterus donors must be 30 to 45 years old and previously had a successful full-term pregnancy.
"Never give up hope," Chelsea says to others struggling to conceive, saying through the wonders of science and Cheryl's generous donation she was able to fulfill her motherhood dream.