Fertility preservation options for transgender individuals

Joshua Sterling, Maurice M. Garcia

Abstract

Gender affirming medical and surgical treatments affect the reproductive potential of transgender individuals. Prior to the development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), genital gender-affirming surgery frequently eliminated a patient’s reproductive potential. Today, all patients should be counseled on their fertility preservation (FP) options before medical and surgical transition, yet this appears to seldom occur in practice. The following review is the result of a systematic literature search of PubMed, Medline and Google Scholar to identify current and future FP options, barriers to treatment patients face, practice patterns of transgender health care providers, and if there were any standardized counseling protocols. Options for transwomen at any point in their transition range from simply providing a semen sample to be used with assistive reproductive techniques to experimental techniques involving testicular cryopreservation followed by in vitro initiation of spermatogenesis. Transmen before and after starting hormone therapy can pursue any assistive reproductive techniques available for ciswomen. Future options currently under investigation include ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC) with in vitro oocyte maturation. In addition to counseling about their FP options, patients should be advised prospectively about the requirements, process details, the total costs associated with achieving pregnancy, and the inherent risks associated with using preserved genetic material including risk of failure, and maternal and fetal health risks. Transgender patients report using assistive reproductive services difficult, due to a lack of dialogue about fertility and the lack of information offered to them- presumably because their circumstances do not fit into a traditional narrative familiar to providers. Physicians and health care providers would benefit from better educational tools to help transgender patients make informed decisions and better training about transgender patients in general, and FP options available to them.