Transgender youth as likely to get pregnant as other adolescents

9 September 2016

Dr Jaimie Veale

Dr Jaimie Veale from the University of Waikato's Psychology programme took the lead in a study of transgender pregnancy.

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.

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) 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 it’s often assumed that trans youth don’t 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.

“Clinicians should ask trans or non-binary youth about their sexual health and behaviours,” says Professor Saewyc. “They should ensure this group know how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.” 

Dr Veale is transgender and a lecturer in Psychology at Waikato University. She says there’s recently been heightened interest in transgender issues in New Zealand, but there’s a need for more research into the health needs of transgender people.  

The UBC study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was recently published online in the International Journal of Transgenderism. You can read the study report here.