Despite increased societal gains, transgender individuals are still a medically and socially underserved group. The historic rise of antitransgender legislation and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, further compound existing health care disparities, particularly in the realm of contraception and pregnancy. Obstetrician-gynecologists and midwives are typically first-line providers when discussing family planning and fertility options for all patients assigned female at birth. Unfortunately,
Only individuals who are assigned female at birth and have a uterus are capable of pregnancy. This can include both cisgender women and nonbinary/transgender men. However, societal and medical institutions are struggling with this shift in perspective from a traditionally gendered role to a more inclusive one. Obstetrician-gynecologists and midwives can serve to bridge this gap between these patients and societal misconceptions surrounding transgender men who desire and experience pregnancy.
Providers need to remember that many transmasculine individuals will still retain their uterus and are therefore capable of getting pregnant. While testosterone causes amenorrhea, if patients are engaging in penile-vaginal intercourse, conception is still possible. If a patient does not desire pregnancy, all contraceptive options available for cisgender women, which also include combined oral contraceptives, should be offered.
For patients seeking to become pregnant, testosterone must be discontinued. Testosterone is teratogenic; it can cause abnormal urogenital development in the female fetus and should be avoided even prior to conception.1,2 The timing of testosterone discontinuation is debatable. There are no well-established guidelines dictating how early pregnancy can be attempted after cessation of testosterone, but typically if menses has resumed, the teratogenic effects of testosterone are less likely.
For amenorrheic patients on testosterone, menses will occur, on average, 3-6 months after testosterone is stopped. Of note, the longer that testosterone has been suspended, the greater the likelihood of achieving pregnancy.3 In a study by Light et al., 72% of patients conceived within 6 months of attempting pregnancy, 80% resumed menses within 6 months of stopping testosterone, and 20% of individuals conceived while they were amenorrheic from testosterone.4
Psychosocial support is an essential part of pregnancy care in transgender men. For some patients, pregnancy can worsen gender dysphoria, whereas others are empowered by the experience. Insurance companies may also deny obstetric care services to transgender males who have already changed their gender marker from female to male on insurance policies.
Whether transmasculine individuals are at higher risk for pregnancy complications is largely unknown, although emerging research in this field has yielded interesting results. While testosterone can cause vaginal atrophy, it does not seem to increase a patient’s risk of vaginal lacerations or their ability to have a successful vaginal delivery. For transgender men with significant discomfort around their genitalia, an elective cesarean section may be appropriate.5
More recently, Stroumsa et al. conducted an analysis of all deliveries at a Michigan institution from 2014 to 2018. Patients with male gender at the time of delivery or with the diagnostic code of gender dysphoria were identified as transgender.6 The primary outcome of this study was severe parental morbidity (such as amniotic fluid embolism, acute myocardial infarction, eclampsia, etc.), with secondary outcomes investigating rates of cesarean delivery and preterm birth.
During this time period, the researchers identified 256 transgender patients and 1.3 million cisgender patients in their Medicaid database and 1,651 transgender patients and 1.5 million cisgender patients in the commercial database who had experienced a delivery.6 Compared with cisgender patients, transgender patients in the Medicaid database were younger, less likely to be white, and more likely to have a chronic condition.6 Compared with cisgender patients in the commercial database, transgender patients experienced higher rates of anxiety and depression.6 Both transgender and cisgender patients had similar rates of severe parental morbidity. Ironically, rates of cesarean delivery were lower, compared with cisgender patients, in both the Medicaid and commercial databases, with no differences observed between rates of preterm birth.6
While more research is needed on pregnancy in transgender men, this analysis is not only one of the largest to date, but it also challenges many misconceptions providers have regarding pregnancy outcomes. Even though transmasculine patients may require additional medical interventions to achieve pregnancy, such as assisted reproductive technology, or increased psychosocial support during the process, these initial studies are reassuring. Based on current evidence, these patients are not at greater risk for perinatal complications than their cisgender counterparts.
Despite these encouraging findings, there are still several challenges faced by transgender men when it comes to getting pregnant. For instance, they may have difficulty accessing fertility services because of financial constraints or experience a lack of awareness or prejudice from providers; they might also be subject to discrimination or stigma within health care settings. As front-line providers for obstetrical care, we must lead the way towards improving the care for pregnant transmasculine individuals.
Dr. Brandt is an ob.gyn. and fellowship-trained gender-affirming surgeon in West Reading, Pa.
1. Light A et al. Family planning and contraception use in transgender men. Contraception. 2018 Oct. doi:.
2. Krempasky C et al. Contraception across the transmasculine spectrum. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Feb. doi:.
3. Obedin-Maliver J, De Haan G. “Gynecologic care for transgender patients” in Ferrando C, ed.,. Philadelphia: Elsevier, 2019. 131-51.
4. Light AD et al. Transgender men who experienced pregnancy after female-to-male gender transitioning. Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Dec. doi:.
5. Brandt JS et al. Transgender men, pregnancy, and the “new” advanced paternal age: A review of the literature. Maturitas. 2019 Oct. doi:.
6. Stroumsa D et al. Pregnancy outcomes in a U.S. cohort of transgender people. JAMA. 2023 Jun 6. doi:.