After last week’s announcement that the Cleveland Clinic is performing uterus transplant surgery on women who were born without a womb or whose uterus is diseased or malfunctioning, many began to wonder whether this medical advancement could be replicated in men.
The simple answer is yes. Theoretically, men could receive a uterus, carry a baby to term, and give birth. But what really blew our minds is that the day of male pregnancy is closer than you’d think.
“My guess is five, 10 years away, maybe sooner,” says Dr. Karine Chung, director of the fertility preservation program at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Yahooadds, “Today, medical advances let transgender women adjust their biochemistry to suppress male and introduce female hormones, have breasts that can lactate, and obtain surgically constructed vaginas that include a “neoclitoris,” which allows sensation.”
Until now, however, a place to carry the fetus — a womb of its own — was a major missing link. Uterus transplants could conceivably surmount that hurdle.“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 New Hope, Pa., plastic surgeon who performs transgender surgeries on men and women and is a consultant to the new movie The Danish Girl, about one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery.
McGinn, a transgender woman and mother of twins, says the “human drive to be a mother for a woman is a very serious thing. Transgender women are no different.”
Uterus transplants are still in the research stage for women suffering from uterine factor infertility (UFI). A Swedish team already has successfully transplanted uteri harvested from live donors and achieved five pregnancies and four live births. In the coming months, the Cleveland Clinic team plans to transplant uteri from deceased donors into UFI female patients.
Transplant surgery is difficult and dangerous, requiring patients to take antirejection drugs throughout their pregnancies, putting them at risk for infection. But for many women — and presumably for many transitioning women — the risk is worth the reward.
However, biological women have a leg up on biological males when it comes to accepting and nurturing a transplanted uterus. Women already have: vasculature needed to feed the uterus with blood, pelvic ligaments designed to support a uterus, a vagina and cervix, and natural hormones that prepare the uterus for implantation and support the pregnancy.
Men have none of those support systems — naturally — but none are impossible to create. “Male and female anatomy is not that different,” says Chung. “Probably at some point, somebody will figure out how to make that work.”
In fact, medical techniques already exist to overcome many obstacles to male pregnancy.
Hormone therapy can shut off testosterone and introduce progesterone and estrogen needed to prepare the uterus for pregnancy.