My name is Jennifer Gobrecht and when I was 17 years old I learned I had infertility and could never bear children.
I had a type of absolute uterine factor infertility called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. This means I have fully functional ovaries but do not have a fully formed uterus (UFI is 1 in 500 and having MRKH is 1 in 4500). I knew that if I ever want to have my own biological children I would need to do IVF. After my husband and I were married, we knew our options for starting a family would be limited: adoption or gestational surrogacy. There was absolutely no way I could become pregnant. At 29 I embarked on my first round of IVF to create frozen embryos. While I do have fully functioning ovaries, they can move around in the body and during my IVF prep I needed an MRI to locate where my left ovary was hiding. Never a dull moment. IVF was just another grueling medical process that I was no stranger to. As an MRKH woman, I went through many tests and exams trying to find out why I wasn’t getting my period as a teenager. You know you are an Infertility patient when you know the name of the speculum they are going to use. IVF was a bittersweet process because my role would end after my egg extraction. Or so I thought…
Well three years after my first round of IVF resulted in 3 PGS tested embryos, I stumbled across a clinical trial at UPenn looking for UFI candidates for a uterus transplant study, I was the right age, fit health criterias, and thought, “why not apply”? Well 3 days later I get a call they are interested in evaluating me for the trial. Tests and screenings for months, showed I was a good candidate to move forward. But here is the hard part. Of the few transplants done around the world there was varying sets of data that showed how many embryo transfers it took to achieve a successful pregnancy. I had to make a choice, because it would be much more difficult to do IVF after a uterus transplant occurs. Do I do another IVF cycle? We opted to. This time it was different. This time I could be the only carrying the embryo I was making. I could be a mom on this new path to parenthood.
I had completed my second IVF cycle, and was listed for a transplant and matched with a donor. I underwent a 10 hour transplant surgery. I had weeks of recovery then a 6 month wait to attempt to my first FET. That would happen to me – something that everyday in the process I couldn’t believe.
The IVF process is an intense one with medications, but to follow that with a transplant medication regimen was next level. I was taking about 37 pills a day can doing blood thinner injections. I feel like being and IVF warrior prepared me for the intensity of the transplant life.
After the dreaded two week wait. after our FET, my husband and I were together for our call with our physician to see what the news would bring. Did our IVF embryo that was transferred into a transplanted uterus stick? The call came and the words said – “The pregnancy test is positive. Every emotion I could ever feel came rushing to me.
Disbelief – I was told time and time again I would never carry a child
Fear – What if something happens after all we did to get here.
Excitement – Holy crap this amazing medical advancement is working
Joy – So So So much joy at this news.
I was the first participant in Penn Medicine’s ongoing uterus transplant clinical trial. In November 2019, I became the second woman in the U.S. to give birth to a baby following a uterus transplant from a deceased donor. I was attended to by a team of more than 20 specialists in high risk obstetrics, transplant surgery, fertility, gynecologic surgery, neonatology, pediatrics, urology, nursing, and anesthesiology. My son was delivered via cesarean section.
As a woman it meant everything to me to be able to have that journey of becoming parents in the way that most people around you get to experience. It wouldn’t have happened without IVF and it wouldn’t have happened without science