Uterus transplants are proving to be tricky as multiple attempts fail

For the first time in the U.S., surgeons have performed living-donor uterus transplants — and it's a bigger deal than you might think.

A team of doctors at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas are currently performing trial uterine transplants on 10 women with various infertility issues. Four of the transplants were completed last month.

Three of those attempts failed — the wombs had to be removed because of poor blood circulation. The fourth transplant is showing some promise, though.

RELATED: Risk factors for complications during pregnancy

Risk factors for complications during pregnancy
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Risk factors for complications during pregnancy

Advanced maternal age

Pregnancy risks are higher for mothers age 35 and older.

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Lifestyle choices

Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs can put a pregnancy at risk.

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Medical history

 A prior C-section, low birth weight baby or preterm birth — birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy — might increase the risk in subsequent pregnancies. Other risk factors include a family history of genetic conditions, a history of pregnancy loss or the death of a baby shortly after birth.

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Underlying conditions

Chronic conditions — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and epilepsy — increase pregnancy risks. A blood condition, such as anemia, an infection or an underlying mental health condition also can increase pregnancy risks.

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Pregnancy complications

Various complications that develop during pregnancy pose risks, such as problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta. Other concerns might include too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) or low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), restricted fetal growth, or Rh (rhesus) sensitization — a potentially serious condition that can occur when your blood group is Rh negative and your baby's blood group is Rh positive.

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Multiple pregnancy

Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher order multiples.

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Worldwide, there have only been 16 other uterus transplant attempts. Of those, only a fraction actually worked.

SEE MORE: A Fetus' Heartbeat Starts Days Earlier Than We Thought

The Baylor trial was modeled after a trial in Sweden. A team there spent more than a decade researching uterus transplants. In 2014, a 36-year-old patient became the first woman in the world to give birth via a donated uterus.

The only other uterus transplant performed in the U.S. happened in February. A 26-year-old mother of three adopted children received a womb from a deceased donor in Cleveland, but it had to be removed because of a yeast infection.

So what makes uterine transplants so tricky? Well, they're not exactly designed to be permanent.

The team at Baylor says since the transplant is not lifesaving like a kidney or heart donation, once a woman has one or two successful pregnancies, they'll have to get a hysterectomy.

Still, the team hopes the success of this transplant will help women around the world. They said if the trial works, they'll open the option "to every woman who is willing to undergo a transplant to have a child."

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