A combination of two existing methods could help trans men have babies

The three-parent technique allows trans men to avoid undergoing unpleasant fertility treatments.
Mert Erdemir
In vitro fertilization of an egg cell.
In vitro fertilization of an egg cell.

Christoph Burgstedt/iStock 

Findings of a new study indicate that combining two currently-used methods could help trans men have babies, according to a press release published by MIT Technology Review.

The new technique is crucial since trans men may want to avoid undergoing fertility treatments as they require stopping gender-affirming hormone therapy and undergoing potentially uncomfortable procedures, including female hormone therapies and vaginal exams.

Combining two currently-used methods

Egg retrieval has already helped some people have babies after surviving cancer. Additionally, the so-called "three-parent technique" has been used in order to help people avoid passing genetic diseases to their babies and to boost fertility.

What this new research suggests is that these techniques could be combined to increase a trans man's chance of using his eggs to create a healthy embryo and become a parent without the need for conventional fertility treatments.

"Every person should have the right to reproduce," says Antonia Christodoulaki from Ghent University in Belgium, who presented her findings at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Milan, Italy, last month. She further adds that this method could provide trans men with more options, especially for those who want to have babies using their own eggs.

“It’s an additional option to enable people to have their own biological children," states Suzannah Williams from the University of Oxford, who was not a participant in the research. "You do end up with a three-parent family … but it's a great possibility."

Conventional methods are unpleasant both physically and mentally

Since gender-affirming therapies might influence fertility, trans men who want to have biological children and are considering gender-affirming treatments are recommended to have some of their eggs collected and frozen.

Testosterone therapy, for instance, is considered to have an impact on egg production. Additionally, some people could decide to have their ovaries completely removed.

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Fertility preservation methods, on the other hand, can lead to potentially unpleasant side effects for a trans man, such as breast tenderness and cramping. Vaginal exams at women's health clinics could be distressing for a person who does not identify as female. "Egg collection is considered very uncomfortable and unpleasant, physically and mentally, if you're a trans man," says Williams.

The method has not been used on a transgender person yet, but Christodoulaki and her colleagues think it might help trans people have children. To test it, the research team tried the method in ovaries that were donated by trans men.

"We still don't know the long-term effects on the babies [that would be] born," says Christodoulaki. "It's a very promising technology … but I would not say that we are ready for clinical [use]."

The findings are encouraging, according to Jess Cadenas, a postdoctoral reproductive biologist at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen who wasn't a part of the study. He also warns that the study is a small-scale one. In either case, he admits that it's too soon to provide this method as a fertility treatment for trans men.

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