Miami - A 26-year-old woman who is the foster mother of three boys was revealed on Monday to be the recipient of the first uterine transplant in the United States.
The woman, who gave only her first name, Lindsey, was born with a condition known as uterine factor infertility, which means the womb is missing or does not work properly, making pregnancy impossible.
The disorder affects three to five percent of women around the world, and about 50,000 women in the United States.
In Lindsey's case, she said she learned at the age of 16 that she would not be able to bear children.
"And from that moment on I prayed that God would allow me the opportunity to experience pregnancy and here we are today at the beginning of that journey," she said at a press conference.
On February 26, she received a uterus from a donor in her 30s who had previously given birth and who died suddenly, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said. The surgery took nine hours.
Lindsey, who sat in a wheelchair 10 days after the operation, spoke of the "immense gratitude I feel toward my donor's family. They have provided me with a gift I will never be able to repay and I am beyond thankful."
She said she wanted to "be open and honest and to share my story," but also asked for privacy due to the small children she is raising with her husband.
"I am a mother already to three beautiful little boys that Blake and I have adopted through the foster care system. Because of that I would ask that you all please respect our privacy."
While the operation was a first for the United States, Sweden has already mastered the technique.
As of late 2014, nine uterine transplant surgeries had already been performed, resulting in five pregnancies and four births, the Cleveland Clinic said.
In the United States, Lindsey is one of 10 women who are expected to receive uterine transplants in the next year.
But the road ahead is long. Lindsey will have to take anti-rejection medication for a year before doctors can consider implanting an embryo.
The year-long waiting period allows the woman to be on the lowest possible doses of anti-rejection medication by the time she becomes pregnant.
"We must remember, uterus transplant is not just about a surgery, and for moving a uterus from here to there" said Rebecca Flyckt, an OB/GYN surgeon at Cleveland Clinic.
"It is about having a healthy baby and that goal is still a couple of years away."
The patient's ovaries are functioning so doctors have been retrieving eggs and fertilizing them with sperm from her husband, then freezing them until implantation can begin, one by one.
Doctors at Cleveland Clinic trained with Swedish doctors to prepare for the surgery.