Local Mom Is First in Country to Deliver 2 Babies After Uterus Transplant

Jennifer Dingle was told she'd never be able to carry her own child. Now, she's done so twice as part of Baylor University Medical Center's uterine transplant program.

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Modern medicine is helping women achieve something they never thought possible.

The women were told they'd never be able to have children, but doctors in Dallas are defying the odds and making it happen.

A North Texas mother opened up about her unique path to motherhood and becoming a pioneer in medicine.

For Jennifer Dingle, doing the impossible started after a phone call from her mother four years ago, while Jennifer and her husband Jason were stationed in Italy.

"She called me one day and told me, 'You're never going to believe what I saw on the news.' And I said, 'What?'" Jennifer Dingle said.

Her mother had heard about a new clinical trial at Baylor University Medical Center that could potentially create a new option for women with uterine factor infertility.

An estimated 1 in 500 women of reproductive age experience absolute uterine factor infertility, which means they can’t get pregnant because they don’t have a functional uterus.

At age 14, Dingle was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the failure of the uterus to develop properly.

Doctors told her she'd never be able to become pregnant.

"Growing up, it was sad but I had some kind of hope that something would happen," Dingle said.

That hope came when Baylor University Medical Center launched the country's first uterine transplant clinical trial to attempt what had only been done a handful of times around the world: transplant a donated uterus into a woman who would then successfully give birth to her first child.

Dingle called to enroll.

"A few months later, she called me and said, 'You've been chosen. Do you still want to go forward with this uterus transplant?' And I said, 'Absolutely!'" Dingle recounted.

The couple uprooted their life and moved back overseas to participate in the trial.

She was the fifth woman to undergo a transplant and shortly after, underwent in vitro fertilization.

She waited, praying the pregnancy would take.

"I got the call. He told me that it was positive and I went straight to the bathroom and took a pregnancy test and came out and showed my husband!" Dingle said.

The Dingles welcomed their daughter in 2018, after a complication-free pregnancy.

While it was a birth story for the history books and documented by the hospital and journalists around the world, the Dingles' role in moving medicine to new heights wasn't over yet.

"When all of these women went into the experimental trial and the research trial, we told them that it's possible for them, if they so wish, to have two children," said Dr. Liza Johannesson, an obstetrician and gynecologist who co-leads Baylor’s program and helped pioneer this surgery in Sweden.

She and Dr. Giuliano Testa, the lead transplant surgeon for the trial, said they were equally excited when Jennifer became pregnant with her second child and nine months later, in February of 2020, became the first woman in the United States to deliver two babies from a transplanted uterus.

"We learned a lot," Testa said. "Most of all, how much benefit we can bring to these women who never had this chance before."

At home, babies Jia and Jade are now almost 3 and 1 year old.

"There are so many times we sit in the living room and we just see them play together and it's just crazy to think that these girls are ours and it still hits us every single day," Jason Dingle said.

Also not lost is the gratitude they have for the woman who donated her uterus.

Jennifer Dingle and her donor have communicated through letters and cards but she is hoping to meet her in person after the pandemic.

Her other hope is that other women, including, one day, her daughters, see their story and believe that anything is possible.

"If there's something that you think you can't do, look what I did to bring you girls in the world. You can do anything," Dingle said.

So far, 20 women have successfully given birth to 13 babies as part of Baylor's uterine transplant program.

Dingle said they're all on a group chat to help new moms in the program and navigate the unknown together.

The trial phase has been completed and now uterine transplants are an option for women who qualify.

As of this writing, the cost of the transplant was in line with other abdominal transplant surgeries, at around $300,000, and isn't covered by health insurance.

Testa and Johannesson said they hope to spread awareness of the surgery to more women and doctors and to persuade insurance companies to cover it.

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