Dr Puntambekar: The man behind India’s first uterus transplant shares his journey

Despite sparking debates on the need for uterus transplant, Dr Shailesh Puntambekar and his team carried out two procedures. The recipients are both menstruating and the doctors says they will soon undergo procedures for pregnancy

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Six months have passed since two women underwent uterus transplants in the country. Doctors, who carried out the procedures, said they have been getting their menstrual cycles and after an observation of few more months, they will have embryos planted in their uterus.

“Science progresses only with experiments. New procedures in medical science will be criticised, but excellence can be achieved only through criticism. Our team took the challenge, learnt the technique and did it successful on two women,” said Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, Director of Galaxy Care hospital, Pune, who led the team of doctors who performed India’s first uterus transplant.

On May 18, India witnessed its first uterus transplant surgery on a 21-year-old woman from Solapur, which gave her a chance to have a biological child. The very next day, a 24-year-old Vadodara woman underwent the same procedure.

“Many had questioned our move when we carried out the surgeries. The criticism was made over the fact that uterus is not vital organ and so a procedure like this is not necessary. But now after successfully performing the procedure, we have started getting so many inquiries from women that I am then forced to ask the critics – can we question the instinct of motherhood?,” said Dr Puntambekar.

Dr Puntambekar started his journey into the field of advanced laparoscopy with a dream of incorporating it into cancer surgery and making it accessible to everyone. He performed Laparoscopic Radical Hysterectomy for first time in India, which has been popularised all over the world as the ‘Pune Technique’. He is the first Indian surgeon to win an Award at the AAGL (American Association of Gynaecologic Laparoscopists) held at Chicago, USA.

In the last few years, his lectures on pelvic anatomy have been widely acknowledged for newer concepts in pelvic anatomy. He is a faculty at the American Association of Gynaecological Laparoscopy (AAGL) and member of AAGL Oncology Committee.

After the success of uterus transplants, Dr Puntambekar has started India’s first dedicated uterus transplant OPD three months ago. Since the OPD has started, the hospital has received more than 300 phone inquiries till date. He now aims to focus on intestinal and pancreas transplant in future.

“The journey to have a successful uterus transplant was not easy. But our team worked tirelessly. We sought permission from state government. Throughout the process, we remained transparent with our patients. Now both the recipients are doing well and after observing few more cycles we will put embryos in their uteruses and hope they can fulfil their dreams of having biological children,” said Dr Puntambekar.