A surgical breakthrough is poised to change the lives of women plagued by fertility issues. But before the impact of this new procedure has been fully recognized in its intended co-hort, already physicians are thinking about broader possibilities: the ability for men to carry children as well.
It may sound far-fetched, but according to Dr. Karine Chung, director of the fertility preservation program at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, it’s right around the corner. “My guess is five, 10 years away, maybe sooner,” she told Yahoo News. But how is that possible? Uterus transplants.
Earlier this month the Cleveland Clinic announced the start of a clinical trial transplanting uteri from deceased women into healthy women in their 20s and 30s with uterine factor infertility, a condition indicating the women have ovaries but were either born without a uterus or have complications with it. It’s a procedure that’s been done successfully in a handful of women in Sweden and is still in the research phase in the U.S., but it’s clear it won’t be long before science attempts to expand the scope of this particular practice. As Yahoo pointed out:
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.
Of course, there are other obvious missing links — a vagina, a cervix, “vasculature needed to feed the uterus with blood, pelvic ligaments designed to support a uterus” — but none the medical profession seems to feel are insurmountable. And , Yahoo also pointed out, “medical techniques already exist to overcome many obstacles to male pregnancy” like hormone therapy, the ability to attach a branch of another large vessel to the uterus to nurture it, and the possibility of attaching a transplanted uterus to other ligaments in the pelvis to support it.
But the issue here isn’t just a matter of science, but more a question of whether something like this should be done just because it can. Many in the transgender community would, of course, say yes, with one trans woman telling Yahoo: “Human drive to be a mother for a woman is a very serious thing. Transgender women are no different.” But what is different is the lack of knowledge of long-term health outcomes for the biological male and any offspring he may carry, not to mention the elective nature of undergoing such a costly procedure on an already strapped health care system, which the Yahoo report acknowledged brings up both ethical and economic concerns.
As the country wrestles to fully comprehend and support trans issues, it’s an unpopular opinion to suggest a hard-line be drawn in the medical sand when so many men and women routinely undergo sex changes so that their physical body matches their inherent gender persona. But regardless of the social identity one adopts or comes into, it can’t be denied that there are still limits on what can and should be done to physically match that identity and individuals with male reproductive systems carrying babies sounds like it might be a good place to start. Or maybe not?
Clutchettes, what do you say? Should men carry babies if science says it’s possible?