UK’s first womb transplant is a success - a history of the nation’s historic transplant procedures

A womb transplant is performed on a 34-year-old woman. Surgeons have performed the UK's first womb transplant on a woman whose sister was the living donor. (Womb Transplant UK/PA Wire)
A womb transplant is performed on a 34-year-old woman. Surgeons have performed the UK's first womb transplant on a woman whose sister was the living donor. (Womb Transplant UK/PA Wire)

Modern medicine has its latest major success after a woman became the first in the UK to successfully undergo a womb transplant. Now more than six months after the procedure, its success is becoming clear to see.

A 40-year-old woman donated her uterus to her 34-year-old sister after she was born without one.

The transplant took place in February at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital by a team of more than 30 staff and the woman is now having periods and preparing to have her own embryos implanted.


Undated handout photo issued by Womb Transplant UK of surgeons performing the UK's first womb transplant in Oxford on a woman whose sister was the living donor. The 34-year-old married woman received the womb - also called the uterus - during an operation lasting nine hours and 20 minutes carried out at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Issue date: Wednesday August 23, 2023. PA Photo. The lead surgeons for the transplant, which took place on a Sunday in early February, were Professor Richard Smith, clinical lead at the charity Womb Transplant UK and consultant gynaecological surgeon at Imperial College London, and Isabel Quiroga, consultant surgeon at the Oxford Transplant Centre, part of Oxford University Hospitals. See PA story HEALTH Womb. Photo credit should read: Womb Transplant UK/PA Wire 

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The procedure has been hailed as the “dawn of a new era” in fertility treatment. According to the NHS, one in seven couples will experience difficulty conceiving.

Professor Richard Smith, one of two lead surgeons during the operations, said: "We were all in tears - it was a very, very emotional."

"I think it was probably the most stressful week of our surgical careers, but also unbelievably positive.

"The donor and recipient are just over the moon."

But this case isn’t the first landmark transplant that has occurred in the UK, In fact, the UK has a history of medical milestones in this area dating back more than 50 years.

While the first womb transplant took place in Oxford, it is the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge where most landmark transplants have occurred.

For more than 40 years, the hospital has led the way in transplantation.

Under Sir Terence English, the first ever successful UK heart transplant took place in 1979.

Heart transplants had taken place before in the 1950s and in the UK in 1968, but the procedures back then did not lead to long-term success for patients.

Five years later in 1984 at Royal Papworth Hospital, the UK’s first heart-lung transplant took place, and this was followed by the world’s first heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986.

In 1988, the first single-lung transplant was deemed a success at the hospital - followed by the first bilateral lung transplant in 1991.

Fast forward to 2006 and the UK’s first beating heart transplant took place at the hospital.

And more current landmark procedures are still taking place at Royal Papworth Hospital.

In 2015, Europe’s first Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD) heart transplant took place here too.