When I suffered my third consecutive miscarriage this past May, my mom said she wanted to help me out however she could, even if it meant being my surrogate. I laughed it off—a 60-year-old surrogate?—but it turned out that, as always, Mom had been on to something.
In 2011, Kristine Casey, 61, gave birth to her own grandchild after being surrogate for her daughter, Sara, who had delivered stillborn twins and then suffered a miscarriage after years of infertility treatment. Surrogacy isn’t typically allowed in post-menopausal women because of the need for hormone supplements and the associated health risks—but occasionally, doctors make exceptions, especially for relatives, and Casey is the oldest of an increasingly large roster of women who have birthed their own grandchildren. And in just the past year, post-menopausal surrogacy has become a seemingly mundane mode of reproduction when compared to the new frontier of infertility solutions: living donor-uterus transplants and bioengineered wombs.
In September, a 36-year-old Swedish woman gave birth to a baby boy in the first-ever birth from a transplanted uterus. The woman, whose identity remains anonymous, was born without a uterus but with functioning ovaries. She is one of nine women to participate in a transplant study led by Mats Brännström, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The uterus was donated by the woman’s 61-year-old friend, and conception was achieved by in-vitro fertilization, after which the embryo was implanted in the woman’s newly transplanted uterus.