A study focused on the feelings and experiences of transgender men who have experienced pregnancy may be the first of its kind.
Transgender men are people who have transitioned to a masculine or male identity from a female identity.
According to NPR, 41 transgender men participated in the research survey led by Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Alexis Light, a first-year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Washington Hospital Center in D.C., originally approached Kerns with questions about transgender male pregnancy because she could not find answers in medical literature.
“My friends were asking me be if they should delay starting testosterone if they had an interest in maintaining future fertility,” Light said.
Kerns and Light decided to conduct a small study to understand more about transgender pregnancy. The people in their study had already had at least one child already through planned and unplanned pregnancies. A small percentage used fertility drugs to become pregnant.
Many of the transgender men had concerns about prior testosterone use before pregnancy. The testosterone had been used 25 men in the study to appear and sound more masculine; the other 16 men had not used the hormone before pregnancy.
While Kerns and Light admit more research is needed, they noted there were no differences in the outcomes of the pregnancy or delivery between the two groups of transgender men. The men who had used testosterone before pregnancy were instructed to stop using testosterone when trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
The study also revealed how transgender men feel about their bodies during pregnancy. Some of the men felt uncomfortable with their pregnancy appearances, while others were finally happy with the bodies they had been born with because they were able to use them for a specific purpose: having a baby.
Many of the transgender men experienced harsh treatment, through insults or actions, by others while pregnant. Some health care providers were openly hostile toward them.
One person in the study reported concern for the welfare of his child.
“Child Protective Services was alerted to the fact that a ‘tranny’ had a baby.”
Instances of insensitivity in referring to the patients as “she,” “he,” or other pronouns were frequently mentioned without asking what the patient preferred.
Kerns reported prejudice went as far as denying prenatal care to the transgender men, which could make health issues worse for some people.
“They just feel a lot of isolation from the health care community. And we have some indication from our qualitative results that depression might be exacerbated for folks who are transgender, both during pregnancy and after.”
It is unclear how many transgender men experience pregnancy every year, but Kerns and Light insist more adequate research about conception is needed and healthcare providers need to develop better relationships with their transgender patients.