Having Children When Transgender

Transgender man with daughter explaining how to do homework
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Individuals are considered to be transgender if their gender identity does not align with the gender associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender individuals choose to socially and/or medically transition so that their gender presentation aligns with their gender identity.

Socially transitioning usually involves dressing and presenting in a way that fits with the person's gender identity. Medically transitioning can involve taking hormones, surgery, or both.

Not all individuals choose to medically or surgically transition. However, those who do may face a dilemma: What do they do if they want to have children later? Both hormone treatments and surgery can impact fertility. Some surgeries, such as the removal of the ovaries or testes, result in permanent infertility

Research has shown that around half of transgender adults regret their inability to have children after they transition. This has led to the recommendation that health care providers discuss fertility issues with all transgender people before they start to transition.

However, these discussions don't always happen. In addition, even when they do, the need to transition can be overwhelming enough to make other concerns seem unimportant. That's particularly true for concerns like fertility, that may not be relevant until later in life.

For some people, the inability to have their own genetic children is not an issue—they may not be interested in having a family or they may want a family but not care about whether their children are biologically related to them. For others, however, the ability to have biological children is important to their long-term happiness. That's where fertility preservation comes into play.

For Transmasculine Adults

Transgender men and transmasculine individuals who transition after puberty have several options for fertility preservation. Specifically, individuals can undergo egg stimulation and harvesting—similar to that for an IVF procedure.

However, for many transgender men, this option can increase dysphoria—discomfort in their bodies. They may not feel comfortable taking a large amount of hormones to stimulate their ovaries. In such cases, there is the possibility of ovarian tissue harvesting. However, it is less effective than ovarian stimulation.

It is worth noting that transgender men and transmasculine people who do not have bottom surgery can get pregnant. If they keep their ovaries and uterus, it is possible for them to experience a healthy pregnancy. However, in order to do so, they need to stop taking testosterone for the duration of the pregnancy. They also need access to either sperm or a fertilized ovum.

For Transfeminine Adults

Fertility preservation for transgender women is easy if it is done before they start taking estrogen. Sperm banking is relatively simple and affordable. However, for some women, the need to masturbate and ejaculate can be too dysphoric. For these women and transfeminine folk, it's possible to either stimulate ejaculation electrically or to use surgery to harvest sperm directly from the testicles.

For Transgender Adolescents

When transgender adolescents are identified before puberty, it can be an incredibly positive thing for them. The standard of care has become using puberty blockers to halt puberty until teenagers and their families are ready.

Then, the teenager can either stop taking blockers to resume the puberty associated with the sex they were assigned at birth or start using hormones pills and/or injections. Either way, the teenager only has to go through puberty once. They don't have to go through a puberty that may be upsetting or painful. They also are more likely to be able to conform to visible gender expectations as an adult. Unfortunately, the downside of puberty blockers is that transgender adolescents who take them have reproductive tracts that do not fully mature.That means that young transgender women can't provide sperm and young transgender men can't provide eggs. In order to do so, they would need to go further through the puberty that blockers are designed to prevent.

There are some experimental options that have been pioneered in young cancer patients whose fertility is also often affected by medical treatment. Ovarian or testicular tissue can be harvested and frozen. Then, at a later date, it may be possible to use hormones to mature that tissue and provide viable eggs and sperm.

The efficacy of these techniques is not something that young people can count on. However, it may be a worthwhile option for adolescents who think they might want to have children and can afford the procedures.

Transgender People as Parents

A significant number of transgender people have children before they transition, particularly when they transition later in life. As a whole, their children are as happy and healthy as children of cisgender couples. That's true for couples who divorce as well as couples who stay together.

One of the biggest factors in children's adjustment is whether their parents continue to have a good relationship. It is also often easier for children to adjust to a parent's transition earlier in their life.

No matter when a parent transitions, their whole family will likely benefit from support. It's a big change for the transgender parent's life, but also for the lives of those who love them. Seeking out resources such as family therapy with a transgender-affirming therapist, or transgender parenting support groups (in person or online), can be incredibly helpful. 

If you are seeking support for issues with coming out, relationships, bullying, self-harm, and more, contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 for one-to-one peer support.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.