Sexually active transgender youth have pregnancy rates similar to their non-transgender peers dispelling the notion that trans youth aren't at risk for pregnancy, according to new research led by Dr Jaimie Veale from the University of Waikato.
The research was conducted as part of Dr Veale's postdoctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. She says the study is the first of its kind.
‘Health care providers should educate trans youth on various risks factors including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and also provide information on means to protect themselves through safe sex practices.’
The research team used data from the 2014 Canadian Transgender Youth Health Survey, focusing on a subset of 540 youth aged 14-25 who had previously had sex. They found that 5% (26) of the youth had been involved in a pregnancy at least once - comparable to British Columbia's pregnancy rate of about 5% among sexually active young people.
Dr Veale says that it is often assumed that trans youth do not get pregnant or get someone pregnant, perhaps because they're receiving hormones that tend to reduce fertility, or because people assume they aren't sexually active. "This study shows otherwise," she says.
Dr Veale and her co-authors found no evidence to support assumptions that pregnancy only occurs in those who are yet to transition as there were no differences in hormone use and living in their felt gender between youth who had experienced pregnancy and those who hadn't.
UBC nursing professor and the study's senior author Elizabeth Saewyc says the finding highlights the need for more supportive sex education and sexual health care for transgender youth.
"As far as we can tell, and we hunted pretty hard to turn up any other papers, this is the first time in the world this information on trans youth and pregnancy has been published," Saewyc said.
The numbers are important, she said, because it means health care providers need to be counseling transgender youth about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases just as much as they do youth in general.
"Clinicians should ask trans or non-binary youth about their sexual health and behaviors," says Professor Saewyc. "They should ensure this group know how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections."
Dr Veale, who herself is transgender, is a lecturer in Psychology at Waikato University. She says there has recently been heightened interest in transgender issues in New Zealand, but there is a need for more research into the health needs of transgender people in this country.
The UBC study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was recently published online in the International Journal of Transgenderism
, an academic peer-reviewed publication of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.