Men may be able to have babies 'tomorrow', says scientist

Society should prepare itself for the arrival of babies born to transgender mothers, as womb transplants could allow men to have babies as early as ''tomorrow'', one of the world's leading fertility specialists has said.

The science is now available to allow women who began life as men to receive donated wombs and attempt to begin pregnancy, according to Dr Richard Paulson, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr Paulson said trans-medicine had now become ''mainstream'' and that people who had undergone gender reassignment surgery would inevitably want to take advantage.

Speaking at a meeting in San Antonio, Texas, he added that there is ''plenty of room'' for a uterus in men as ''men and women have the same blood vessels''.

He said the next step would be trials involving transgender women to help them become natural mothers.

British experts have warned, however, that initiating a pregnancy in a transgender woman may be unethical as it would safer for the child to be born via a surrogate mother.

They said that if womb transplantation for natural women becomes freely available on the National Health Service, hospitals may also have to offer it to transgender women due to equalities legislation.

Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at Oxford University, recently said the safety of the baby should be the priority. ''It it is hard to justify from the perspective of using NHS health resources, or from the child's own perspective,'' he said.

''We ought avoid exposing foetuses and future children to unnecessary significant risks,'' he added.

''Although technically possible to perform the procedure, you would also need to be very confident the uterus would function normally during pregnancy.

Uterine rupture could cause the death or permanent disablement of the foetus.''

Doctors hope to perform the first UK womb transplant in 2018.

Transplanting a womb is a complicated, lengthy procedure and only a small number of women have undergone the procedure so far. However, expertise is being developed at increasing numbers of centres.

Dr Paulson said there was no anatomical reason why a womb could not successfully be implanted into a transgender woman. ''You could do it tomorrow,'' he said.

"There would be additional challenges, but I don't see any obvious problem that would preclude it.

"I personally suspect there are going to be trans women who are going to want to have a uterus and will likely get the transplant.''

While men and women have a different shaped pelvis, he added, there would nevertheless be room for an implanted womb.

However, the shape of the male womb means transgender women would have to give birth via cesarean section, he said.

Precedents
Since 2014 at least five babies have been born to women who had received wombs in a series of operations in Sweden.

Other womb transplant programmes are cropping up in Europe and in the UK doctors have been given permission by the regulator to begin their own charity-funded programme.

Womb transplantation is complicated partly because the organ is located next to a number of major blood vessels.

Recipients have to undergo long-term immunosuppressive treatment to prevent the organ being rejected.

About 7,000 women a year in the UK are born without a womb, and others are forced to have theirs removed due to cancer and other conditions.

In July this year a British man made history by becoming the first to give birth (See: Man, 21, becomes first in UK to give birth to child).

Hayden Cross, who was born a woman, gave birth to a baby girl after becoming pregnant thanks to a sperm donor. However he had put a full sex change on hold.

Some men who transition to become women preserve their eggs by freezing before they lose the ability.