April 23, 2024

Male pregnancy a real possibility

If uterus transplants are possible, why can’t transgender women get them?

The idea of male pregnancy was once reserved for comedy (remember the pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior?) or trash TV shows about bearded transgender men using their own wombs and donated sperm. Yet some now think childbearing for biological males is only five or ten years away.

Researchers based at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden successfully transplanted a womb into a 36-year-old woman in 2013 and in 2015 that woman gave birth to a healthy boy. The researchers are confident that the procedure can be refined and administered to many more women in the future.

Could it perhaps be administered to a man, asked Dr David Warmflash, a physician and science writer, in a recent Genetic Literacy Project blog post.

“The logical progression before one transplants a uterus into a man, or a former man, is to transplant one into a woman. That step has been achieved… unlike with a male patient, a female patient has the needed blood supply for a uterus present… a naturally-born female is a more biologically compatible recipient for a donated womb than someone who was born male, even if no-longer male externally… That said, there’s no technological or medical reason why a man could not receive a donated uterus. While there are no uterine vessels or pelvic ligaments to connect, such structures could be created.”

Would there be a demand for such a procedure? “I’d bet just about every transgender person who is female will want to do it, if it were covered by insurance,” says Dr Christine McGinn, a plastic surgeon, a consultant on the Oscar-nominated film The Danish Girl. “The human drive to be a mother for a woman is a very serious thing. Transgender women are no different.”

But probably only wealthy transgender people. The bill could be well over US$1 million. Insurance companies are unlikely to pick up the tab. “It’s a class issue; you’ll only have wealthy people able to do this,” says Dr McGinn. 

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