A gift for life? 

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In the fall of 2012 nine women diagnosed with uterine factor infertility, meaning that the uterus does not exist or is malfunctioning, took part in the first attempts world-wide to transplant a uterus at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden. They all received their uterus from a live donor - some of them received it from their mother, some from a relative, and one from a close friend. In 2019 it was reported that 14 children had been born worldwide as a result of the treatment, nine of them by women taking part in the Swedish attempts.

On the one hand, the development of assisted reproductive technology (ART) presents new opportunities for involuntarily childless women to become pregnant and become a parent. On the other hand, it creates questions and challenges of a relational, societal and ethical character. This project addresses such questions and challenges by examining sociocultural aspects of the innovation from different actors’ perspectives.

The enactment of norms

Aiming to examine socio-cultural aspects of uterus transplantation, this project explores the perspectives of involved actors such as medical professionals and those of women diagnosed with uterine factor infertility. It investigates how such actors reason about and make sense of uterus transplantation in relation to beliefs about female embodiment, gender, in/fertility, pregnancy and medical innovation. The project also aims to investigate how sociocultural beliefs become enacted in care practices and matter to policies that take shape along with the development of uterus transplantation.

Developing care and policy

In an era where ARTs have become a ‘normal’ part of individuals’ lives across the globe, this project contributes with knowledge on how relational, societal and ethical challenges take shape in the development of a new ART. It also provides increased insight into sociocultural aspects of an invasive medical treatment that is not meant to save lives but aims to enable pregnancy and biological parenthood. Doing so, the project brings out the complexities of how medical innovations – for which there are no established protocols and policies – are understood, renegotiated and questioned.

Project title: A gift for life? – a sociocultural exploration of live uterus transplantation between relatives and friends from the perspective of involved parties
Funder: Swedish Research Council

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