When Chelsea Jovanovich was 15, she was told she would never be able to carry a baby. It was devastating news, but she never gave up hope. After hearing about an experimental uterus transplant program at Penn Medicine, she applied and was accepted. After a 12-hour surgery, she was able to become pregnant and give birth to her first son, Telden, in May 2021. Now, she’s celebrating a new milestone: Chelsea just gave birth to her second son, Stetson, in October 2022.
For Chelsea Jovanovich, the dream of having a baby seemed impossible. She was born with a rare condition called MRKH, which caused her uterus to never fully form. She and her husband, Jake, researched surrogacy, but it didn’t work out for them. Then, her mom found out about the uterus transplant program at Penn Medicine and encouraged her to apply. After she was accepted, Chelsea and Jake moved from Montana to outside Philadelphia to be closer to her doctors.
The 12-hour surgery was a success, and Chelsea was able to take immunosuppressing drugs so that her body wouldn’t reject the new organ. After she recovered for six weeks, doctors implanted an embryo, which didn’t take. But the second one did, and Chelsea was pregnant with Telden. She said it was an unreal feeling and she didn’t savor it as much as she should’ve.
Chelsea and Jake wanted another baby, and in October 2022, she gave birth to Stetson. Stetson is the 25th baby born to a woman who had a uterus transplant in the United States, and Chelsea and Jake are grateful for the opportunity to be parents. Telden took some time to adjust to being a big brother, but now both boys are growing and developing fast.
Uterus transplants are still considered experimental, but they offer choices to women without a uterus or who have uterine problems. After a person delivers a second baby, the uterus is removed, so they can stop taking the immunosuppressive regimen that can have long-term effects. The limited information available shows that the live birth rates and congenital anomalies are the same as what is seen in IVF.
Chelsea and Jake are moving back to Montana, and look forward to family gatherings and seeing their parents enjoy their roles as grandparents. Chelsea doesn’t take for granted all the toys she picks up at night, because she knows this is what she wanted and now she gets to do it.
Chelsea Jovanovich’s story is a testament to never giving up hope and the power of modern medicine. Thanks to a rare uterus transplant, she was able to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother and give her two sons the chance to experience a loving family.