A smile spread across her face when Malin Stenberg heard this week that surgeons had performed the UK’s first uterus transplant.
During surgery at Churchill Hospital in Oxford, a 34-year-old woman received the donated uterus of her 40-year-old sister.
The patient, who asked not to be named, is now hoping to undergo IVF treatment later this year.
45-year-old Swede Malin can well imagine the woman’s emotional anguish leading up to the operation – in 2014 she became the first woman in the world to have a baby after a uterus transplant.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Malin – who lives in Gothenburg with husband Claes Nilsson, 47, and their son Vincent, eight, said: “This is very good news. I am very happy for this woman.
“If you want a child, no matter how you get it, I think it’s a gift.”
The Oxford transplant took place in February, but the surgeons only went public this week.
A team of more than 30 carried out the approximately 17-hour operations in adjacent operating rooms.
Transplant surgeon Isabel Quiroga, who led the uterus implantation team, said of the recipient, “She was absolutely over the moon, very happy and hoping she can have not just one baby but two.”
“It was a shock that I was different from other girls”
“Her uterus is functioning perfectly and we are monitoring her progress very closely.”
Malin, a financial advisor, said: ‘I wish her every success in her journey to motherhood. It was a wonderful time for us.”
Malin’s uterus donor, family friend Ewa Rosen, now 69, remains close to the family and Malin said: “Ewa actually lives down the street from us.
“We’ve started talking to Vincent and he’s very grateful that Ewa gave us this ‘baby bag’, as he calls it, as a gift.
“One day my husband went to Ewa’s for dinner and Vincent gave her a bouquet of flowers.
“As he handed it over, he said, ‘Thank you for the baby bag.'”
“She didn’t understand what he meant, but when my husband explained it, she got very emotional.”
Malin was 16 when it was revealed she had been born without a uterus after her mother sent her to the school nurse over fears her period hadn’t started.
She said: “At that point I wasn’t ready to think about starting a family and children.
“It was more of a shock that I was different from other girls.”
The Oxford patient was born with a rare condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, which affects around one in 5,000 women and is thought to be genetic.
But in Malin’s case, she said, “It was just a fluke, like being born with half a finger.”
“Both of my sisters gave birth to two boys.”
As Malin grew older, her desire to become a mother grew and the thought that maybe it wouldn’t happen was “very painful”. She said, “It was like a brick wall, something that was never talked about.”
When she was 30, she met Claes, a former professional golfer, and knew she wanted to settle down with him.
She told him she couldn’t carry a child and recalled, “I didn’t know if he would accept it or not.
“It was very intimate to talk about things like that, but we had the conversation pretty early on in our relationship.”
And she jokingly added, “I don’t think he knew what a uterus was back then.”
But Malin recalled that he was very supportive and she said: “He’s fantastic in that way.
“I had already decided not to try to have a child because it was so emotionally painful.
“But he said to me, ‘We’re going to start a family one way or another.'”
“He loved children and found it unacceptable not to try.”
The couple initially explored surrogacy and adoption.
Malin said: “I have suffered and struggled for many years knowing that you are not able to have a child of your own naturally.
“Of course there are other ways, but they are not easy.
“There are many rules and restrictions. There are many people who want to adopt, but Sweden is a small country.”
Eventually, the couple heard about a groundbreaking uterine transplant program at the University of Gothenburg.
But finding a suitable donor was difficult.
Malin said, “I’m the eldest of three sisters and all of our friends are the same age as us, so they all had children or were yet to start families.”
Then Ewa, the mother of one of Claes’ childhood friends, offered to donate.
Malin said: “She found out about our dilemma through our friend. She said, “I thought I could do it.” Our friend almost laughed that it couldn’t possibly work.
“We crossed our fingers and hoped a lot going through these steps because we were in the first group of stages. So there were no guarantees.”
The surgery was a success, but Malin’s pregnancy comes with additional risks.
She said: “I had a lot of medication to make sure my body didn’t reject the transplanted organ. I was very nervous all the time.
“I was supposed to have a c-section because they didn’t know if it would work with a natural birth.”
Malin made history when she gave birth to Vincent – which means ‘conquer’ in Latin.
“We have Vincent and are very grateful”
She said, “I think it suits us very well.”
However, he weighed just over 3 pounds at birth and Malin said, “I got preeclampsia and ended up having an emergency C-section.” He was very small.
“It’s hard to explain how I felt when I first saw him. I get emotional just talking about it and that was almost nine years ago. It’s been a long journey but worth every minute.”
She added: “I hope one day the woman in England can have the experience of being a mother like me.”
The couple, who married in 2018, initially chose to remain anonymous like the Oxford woman.
But then they decided to go public to raise awareness and give hope to other infertile women – even publishing a book about their experiences.
Malin says that Ewa, who is also Vincent’s godmother, will always have a special place in her family.
She added: “We are forever grateful to Ewa. We bring her flowers for every birthday and for Christmas.
“She is a mother of two boys and we joke with our friend that Vincent was in the same womb as he and his brother.”
The family spends time with Ewa regularly and she will also be attending Vincent’s ninth birthday party on September 4th.
Malin said: “We plan to go to the Swedish west coast and have a picnic, games and cake on the beach with his friends.”
The couple also remain close to Professor Mats Brannström, the chief physician at the University of Gothenburg who led the research team and performed the groundbreaking surgery.
Malin said: “He’s an incredible man, both professionally and personally. Sometimes they talk to each other.
“Vincent used to come to his birthday parties when he was younger, but now Mats has many grateful customers.
“He’s probably very busy right now.”
After Vincent was born, Malin was advised not to conceive again and had her uterus removed three months later.
She said: “We have Vincent and we are very grateful. Our family is complete.”
Breathing life into fifty toddlers
It is believed that uterus donors have now given birth to around 50 babies worldwide.
The first transplant between sisters in the UK could be the start of an incredible journey for the 34-year-old recipient, who plans to undergo fertility treatment later this year.
The doctors hope that she will later have a child herself.
During the transplant, surgeons removed the uterus of her 40-year-old sister, who already had two children, and implanted it in her body.
The two procedures overlapped and lasted a total of almost 18 hours.
Doctors remove the donated uterus after five years to prevent rejection by the recipient’s body.
After that, the donor’s recovery will take several weeks and her period will stop.
Menopause, altered sexual feelings, and possibly a sense of sadness over the major physical change are also to be expected.
Since Malin Stenberg gave birth to her son in September 2014 after the world’s first uterus transplant resulted in a live birth, a further eight babies – including three pairs of siblings – have been born in Sweden.
In June, the country made headlines again when a baby was born after the same operation, this time with the help of a robot.
Professor Richard Smith, the gynecological surgeon who led the organ harvesting team at Oxford, described the uterine transplant as a “huge success”.
It has been hailed as a groundbreaking development and could help British women who fear they will never be able to start a family.