A new, peer-reviewed study looks at the experiences of trans/masculine and nonbinary people who were gestating but experienced pregnancy loss.
“Men, trans/masculine, and non-binary people’s experiences of pregnancy loss: an international qualitative study,” by Damien W. Riggs, Ruth Pearce, Carla A. Pfeffer, Sally Hines, Francis Ray White, and Elisabetta Ruspini, was published Monday in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, and is the first empirical paper to come out of the broader Leeds University project, “Trans Pregnancy: An International Exploration of Transmasculine Practices and Experiences of Reproduction,” according to a tweet by Riggs. Although growing numbers of men, trans/masculine, and nonbinary people are becoming gestational parents, the researchers say, “very little is known about experiences of pregnancy loss among this diverse population.”
For their study, the researchers recruited a convenience sample of 16 participants, ages 23 to 49, who had experienced a pregnancy loss. Six of the participants had experienced more than one; 15 had experienced a live birth either prior to or following a pregnancy loss. The researchers then conducted interviews averaging 100 minutes, asking a general question about experiences of undertaking a pregnancy and specific follow-up questions about pregnancy loss.
While the experiences of the participants bore some similarities to those of cisgender men and women who had experienced pregnancy loss, there were also some points of difference, the study found, including “the importance of inclusive healthcare (i.e., asking about pronouns, refusing to accept misgendering within healthcare systems), the specific meanings that trans/masculine and non-binary people may bring to the experience of pregnancy loss (i.e., in regards to concerns about testosterone and pregnancy), and the ways in which marginalisation may negatively impact on available support (i.e., in terms of unsupportive family members).”
Another distinctive finding was that participants “spoke about pregnancy loss as distressing, but also as a sign that their bodies were working.” While some participants had been concerned that previous hormone prescriptions might have meant they would not be able to conceive, these concerns “were to a degree allayed by eventually becoming pregnant, even if for some it ended in a pregnancy loss.” Therefore, the researchers suggest:
Clinicians will best meet the needs of trans/masculine and non-binary people who have experienced a pregnancy loss by focusing on the emotions attached both to the loss and to the possible desire to attempt another pregnancy, rather than focusing on pregnancy loss as a means to infer that trans/masculine, non-binary and men’s bodies should not be pregnant.
To many of us who know trans/masculine and nonbinary people who have been pregnant, that may seem obvious—but as with much of the research about LGBTQ parents and youth, sometimes it’s useful to have research to support the obvious. It can help guide clinical practice, among other things. The researchers advise, for example, that hospital staff and those providing grief counselling for pregnancy loss should receive training specific to this population:
This should include a focus on the importance of asking about pronouns, advocating for system change in terms of ensuring that names, pronouns and gender can be correctly recorded, and ensuring that medical experiences following a pregnancy loss do not further compound the potential grief experienced by men, trans/masculine, and non-binary people and their partners.
This paper feels like a good step towards helping people of all genders get the reproductive care that they need. The full paper is available free online.
Bonus note: Cited in the paper is Christa Craven’s Reproductive Losses: Challenges to LGBTQ Family-Making (Routledge, 2019), which takes a wider look at gestational or adoption loss across the LGBTQ spectrum. I reviewed it here.
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