Much of our work at the CBC is keeping an eye on new advancements in science, technology, and medicine, always with a discerning eye on the ethics of new developments. As we say, not all progress is good or ethical.  And, our work tries to keep the ethics in medicine or as is often the case, put the ethics back into medicine.

We write and speak a lot around assisted reproductive technologies as they strive to help people have children who otherwise would not be able to.  Our finger is on the pulse of new advancements in artificial wombs as well as uterine transplants.  We’ve written about the risks (many) and benefits (few) of uterine transplants noting that this is a very expensive experimental procedure that even experts caution against.

We reported on a new study which showed that out of 182 men who identify as ‘trans women’, 90% of them would want a uterine transplant so they can experience menstruation, pregnancy and giving birth like women.

So, you can imagine when I saw this headline, “Indian Surgeon Planning Womb Implant into Trans-Identified Male” it caught my eye.  The article goes on to explain that a New Delhi physician, Dr. Narendra Kaushik, is developing “a surgical plan to implant a womb in a biological male who identifies as transgender.” His bio says that he has 15 years of experience working with transgender patients as a plastic, cosmetic, and reproductive surgeon and his services offer the full range of gender reassignment surgeries.

He’s unsure if he will use the uterus from a deceased donor or a uterus that has been removed from a woman undergoing a hysterectomy. Kaushik, believes this is the future for transgender women who want to be as female as possible.

There are plenty of headlines out there reporting stories of ‘men getting pregnant’ or “my brother’s pregnancy” but these stories are just about women having babies, women who ‘identify as men’.  What will break out of these headline stories though will be if a man can be successfully implanted with a donor uterus and achieve a successful pregnancy and delivery of a healthy child.

Dr. Richard Paulsen, claimed in 2017, that biological males would be able to get pregnant using the available medical technology – ART, IVF, fertility drugs, and yes, womb transplants.  Since men don’t produce eggs, donor eggs would be needed.  Then IVF would be required to create the embryo to then transfer into the transplanted womb.  Anti-rejection medication would be required to prevent rejection of the transplanted womb. The delivery would have to be by cesarean section, since that is how babies are delivered using this experimental procedure.  

Wherever this Brave New World is headed, it is clear there is work happening to artificially assist men in carrying babies to term.  Work is being done in the laboratory where castrated male rats have had uterine transplants.  The scientists had to connect the male rat to the circulatory system of a pregnant female rat.  The male rat’s transplanted uterus had pups delivered by c-section with most of them dying within a few hours after delivery.

Only once has a male received a womb transplant.  In 1931 Danish Lili Elbe, a man who identified as a woman received a womb transplant. 3 months later he died of serious infection and organ rejection.

It’s now been over 90 years since Elbe died.  Will it be another 90 years before we see men having babies?  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I hope this is a breakthrough that is never accomplished.

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC President
Jennifer Lahl, CBC President
Jennifer Lahl is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.