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Surgeons perform first womb transplant in the UK

The 34-year-old patient said she was “incredibly happy” with the success of the nine-hour operation

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A team of surgeons has performed the first womb transplant in the UK, giving a woman who was born without a functioning womb the possibility of getting pregnant and carrying her own baby.

As detailed in a case report published by the BJOG, both the woman and the donor, her sister, have recovered well.

The married woman was born with a rare condition, meaning her original womb was underdeveloped. Her 40-year-old sister already had two children of her own.

The 34-year-old patient said she was “incredibly happy” with the success of the nine-hour operation, according to the medical team, and planned to have two children using IVF.

The transplant was undertaken as part of the UK living donor programme, which is sponsored and funded by the charity Womb Transplant UK, following approval from the Human Tissue Authority.

The surgical team was co-led by surgeons at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust.

Both the donor operation and subsequent transplant took place at the Oxford Transplant Centre at OUH’s Churchill Hospital. Together they took almost 18 hours.

One in five thousand women in the UK are born without a viable womb and are unable to conceive and carry their own child. Many other women have had to have their womb removed following cancer or other illnesses and conditions, including endometriosis.

A womb transplant could open up the possibility for dozens of infertile patients to have babies every year. While this is the first transplant of its kind in the UK, approximately 100 transplants have been performed globally, with around 50 babies born so far.

Professor Richard Smith, founder and chair of the charity Womb Transplant UK, consultant gynaecological surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and professor of practice at Imperial College London, co-led the womb transplant operations alongside Isabel Quiroga, an OUH consultant transplant and endocrine surgeon.

He said: “This is a first for the UK, following over 25 years of research, and is only possible thanks to the recipient’s sister who came forward and was willing to donate.

“It is still very early days but, if all continues to go well, we hope the recipient will continue to progress, and be in a position to have a baby in the coming years.

“We are grateful to the charity Womb Transplant UK for funding the transplant and to our highly talented colleagues for their time and expertise over many years.

“Any further transplants will depend on the willingness of suitable donors and funding for the operations, which comes through Womb Transplant UK. However, we very much hope we will be able to help other women born without or with underdeveloped wombs in the near future.”

Quiroga said: “It was a privilege to carry out the UK’s first womb transplant. The operations, while long and complex, went according to plan and I am delighted to see that the donor and recipient are recovering well.

“I look forward to the time when this procedure becomes more common and more women have the opportunity to have their own baby.”

The £25,000 transplant cost was paid for by donations to Womb Transplant UK. The transplant is expected to last a maximum of five years before the womb is removed.

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Start-up raises US4.2m to address disparities in women’s mental health

LunaJoy Health seeks to address the complex needs of high-risk women

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LunaJoy Health co-founders Sipra Laddha, MD and Shama Rathi, MD

The US telehealth start-up LunaJoy Health has raised US$4.2m in funding to address disparities in women’s mental health.

LunaJoy aims to eliminate inequalities in mental health and “redesign” the way women access care.

The platform, which offers mental health therapy, counselling and medication management, is developing care models that cater to underserved populations, providing care that seeks to address the complex needs of high-risk women.

The funding round, supported by Y Combinator, FoundersX Fund, Goodwater Capital, Magic Fund, VentureSouq, Nurture Ventures and NorthSouth Ventures, is hoped to help the company expand its capabilities and close disparities in maternal health care.

“The support from our investors, coupled with the current focus on maternal health improvements through TMaH funding, sets the stage for the change we need to see so badly across the industry,” said Sipra Laddha, co-founder and CEO of LunaJoy Health.

Mental health is a lifetime pursuit, and we want to design a way to engage and support women with a variety of needs and varying degrees of risk.

“By using technology, we can measure and treat symptoms more effectively, delivering a better service model to meet rising demand and a shortage of therapists in the US.”

This financial and strategic support, Laddha said, will help LunaJoy roll out its “novel” integrated care programme, LunaCare, across select communities in need of maternal mental health.

The investment will also facilitate the integration of advanced technology solutions to enhance care coordination and patient monitoring.

Surbhi Sarna, partner at Y Combinator, said: “LunaJoy Health’s mission to bring a new standard to maternal health care for Medicaid mothers aligns perfectly with our goal of supporting scalable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

“We are proud to back such a vital initiative that promises significant impact.”

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New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies

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The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products

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Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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