Transmasculine individuals’ experiences with lactation, chestfeeding, and gender identity: a qualitative study MacDonald, Trevor; Noel-Weiss, Joy; West, Diana; Walks, Michelle; Biener, MaryLynne; Kibbe, Alanna; Myler, Elizabeth
Background: Transmasculine individuals are people who were assigned as female at birth, but identify on the male side of the gender spectrum. They might choose to use and engage their bodies to be pregnant, birth a baby, and chestfeed. This study asked an open research question, “What are the experiences of transmasculine individuals with pregnancy, birthing, and feeding their newborns?” Methods: Participants who self-identified as transmasculine and had experienced or were experiencing pregnancy, birth, and infant feeding were recruited through the internet and interviewed. Interviews were transcribed verbatim. We used interpretive description methodology to analyze the data. Our analysis was guided by our awareness of concepts and history important to the transgender community. Results: Out of 22 participants, 16 chose to chestfeed for some period of time, four participants did not attempt chestfeeding, and two had not reached the point of infant feeding (i.e., were still pregnant or had a miscarriage). Nine of the 22 study participants had chest masculinization surgery before conceiving their babies. Six participants had the surgery after their children were born, five desired the surgery in the future, and two did not want it at all. Chest care, lactation, and chestfeeding in the context of being a transgender person are reported in this paper. The participants’ experiences of gender dysphoria, chest masculinization surgery before pregnancy or after weaning, accessing lactation care as a transmasculine person, and the question of restarting testosterone emerged as data. We present the participants’ experiences in a chronological pattern with the categories of before pregnancy, pregnancy, postpartum (6 weeks post birth), and later stage (beyond 6 weeks). Conclusions: The majority of participants chose to chestfeed while some did not due to physical or mental health reasons. Care providers should communicate an understanding of gender dysphoria and transgender identities in order to build patient trust and provide competent care. Further, health care providers need to be knowledgeable about lactation and chest care following chest masculinization surgery and during binding, regardless of the chosen feeding method and through all stages: before pregnancy, during pregnancy, postpartum, and afterward.
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