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Can men become pregnant? Not really.

Hayden Cross, 21, the British man who gave birth to a baby girl in June, underwent gender reassignment surgery three years ago but retained his ovaries and breasts in order to give birth.

health Updated: Jul 09, 2017 17:22 IST
Hayden Cross, 21, the British man who gave birth to a baby girl in June, underwent gender reassignment surgery three years ago but retained his ovaries and breasts in order to give birth.
Hayden Cross, 21, the British man who gave birth to a baby girl in June, underwent gender reassignment surgery three years ago but retained his ovaries and breasts in order to give birth.(Twitter photo)

When a British man gave birth to a girl this June, he joined a short list of men who have been with child, and there is a big catch. People who are anatomically born as men cannot become pregnant, not yet anyway. Most cases where men did become pregnant, they were actually transgender men who had transitioned from being women.

In this case, Hayden Cross, 21, who was born in a female body had undergone gender reassignment surgery three years ago but had retained his breasts and ovaries in order to carry his child. The first man to give birth, Thomas Beatie, was also a transgender. He was born Tracy Lehuanani LaGondino with female parts but transitioned to a male identity. In 2008, he gave birth to a baby girl, Susan.

Theoretically, there is a procedure for men to undergo surgical implants. It is called Ectopic implantation, in which an embryo implanted in a man’s abdomen, and the placenta attached to an internal organ such as the bowel. Once the foetus is fully developed it can be delivered through Caesarean section. But the risks to the pregnant man and the baby are deemed too high for it to be attempted in humans.

Uterus transplants are increasingly becoming an option for women who suffer from uterine dysfunction. The procedure is still experimental even for women but has never been attempted for a man. Though the first uterine transplant was performed in 2000 in Saudi Arabia but it was only in 2014, that the first successful pregnancy was completed in a Swedish woman.

For men, even a uterus transplant would not be enough to carry a child. It would require the construction of vagina and also the pelvis, in a very intricate surgery, that has not been done till now. The first successful uterus transplants happened in India only this year, at a hospital in Pune.

In 2006, Sanju Bhagat, a Nagpur resident hit the news when he was admitted to the hospital, because of complications related to his swollen belly, that some speculated was a pregnancy. Doctors hypothesised the presence of a giant tumour.

However, a surgery revealed that the bloated tummy was a result of the remains of his half developed twin persisting in his body. Bhagat, it turns out, suffered from a rare condition, called fetus in fetu, where the fetus of a twin gets trapped in the body and feeds of the blood supply of the living fully developed twin. In Bhagat’s case, his unformed twin had developed limbs with fingernails, some hair and even genitalia.