A transgender woman has become the first in the world to breastfeed her baby after undergoing hormone treatment.
A 30-year-old transgender woman has become the first in the world to breastfeed her baby after undergoing extensive hormone treatment.
An experimental three-and-a-half-month treatment plan which included a regimen of hormones and breast stimulation enabled the woman to produce 227 grams of milk a day.
“This is a very big deal,” says Joshua Safer of Boston Medical Center, who was not involved with the treatment. “Many transgender women are looking to have as many of the experiences of non-transgender women as they can, so I can see this will be extremely popular.”
New Science reports:
The transgender woman had been receiving feminising hormonal treatments for several years before she started the lactation treatment. These included spironolactone, which is thought to block the effects of testosterone, and progesterone and a type of oestrogen.
This regimen enabled her to develop breasts that looked fully grown, according to a medical scale that assesses breast development based on appearance. She had not had any breast augmentation surgery.
When her partner was five-and-a-half-months pregnant, the woman sought medical treatment from Tamar Reismanand Zil Goldstein at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City. Her partner had no interest in breastfeeding, she explained, so she would like to take on that role instead.
This is the first case of breastfeeding by a trans woman to be reported in the medical literature, say Reisman and Goldstein. Safer agrees. “It’s out there on internet forums, but there’s a lot on the internet that’s true or untrue to varying degrees,” he says. “It’s a very big deal to have this recorded in a reliable document.”
But Safer isn’t surprised that it’s possible.
“When I treat transgender women, we see good breast development” he says. There’s no reason why the cells in these breasts wouldn’t make milk the same way that those of non-transgender women do, he says, although he notes that it is unclear to what extent the drugs and hormones helped. “For all we know, breast stimulation alone might be sufficient.”
If the treatment is proven safe and effective, it could benefit the babies of other transgender women, as well as women who adopt or those who have difficulty breastfeeding, says Safer.
However, the woman’s breastmilk has not been assessed yet, so we don’t know if it has the same mix of components as in milk from new gestational mothers. This means the practice cannot yet be recommended, says Madeline Deutsch at the University of California, San Francisco. She says she can see the potential benefits of breastfeeding, but that the long-term impact of this milk on the baby – including on subtle measures like IQ – is unknown.
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