Is Breast Still Best? By Mrs Vera West
“After undergoing hormone therapy, a 30-year-old transgender woman has been able to breastfeed her adopted baby. Her doctors believe it may be the first such instance reported in medical literature, according to a case study protocol in the journal Transgender Health. Tamar Reisman, who co-authored the study, is an endocrinologist with the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She says the case is important for two reasons. First, it proves that functional lactation—breastfeeding that provides nutrition—can be produced in transgender women. She also sees a broader trend: “Transgender healthcare, which has historically really been underground, is now moving to mainstream medicine,” she tells Tonic. According to the study, the woman’s partner was pregnant, but didn’t want to breastfeed. The trans woman—who’d been taking feminizing hormones for six years and had developed fully grown breasts without augmentation surgery—wanted to be able to breastfeed. (Specifically, she was taking progesterone, a type of estrogen, and spironolactone, which blocks testosterone.) Reisman and her study co-author Zil Goldstein, they adapted an existing treatment protocol by using hormones to simulate pregnancy, the nausea drug domperidone, and a breast pump to stimulate the tissue to produce milk.
Reisman hesitated to speculate too deeply about the woman’s motivations, and the patient herself is not speaking to the media. But research shows that breastfeeding helps mother and child bond; it also has immune-system benefits for the baby. Formula-fed babies are more likely to experience certain kinds of infections than their breastfed counterparts, and women who have breastfed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer than those who’ve never nursed. There are protocols for what’s called “non-puerperal induced lactation”—breastfeeding that occurs without a pregnancy. But, Reisman notes, “those protocols were meant to be applied to cisgender women,” like women who adopt infants and want to nurse. Part of adapting the process meant blocking testosterone—a necessity for transgender women. Then there was an even more fundamental question: Are there functional differences between cisgender and transgender breast tissue, and would the modified protocols have the same effect? “Part of the risk was of the unknown,” Reisman says. “What doesn’t exist in the literature is, for example, a nutritional breakdown of breast milk in transgender women.” Would it be the same as in cisgender breast milk? Would a transgender woman produce enough milk, with the right nutritional elements, to support a growing child?”
What a wonderful thing modern medicine is. So many interesting research questions to answer. Pity it cannot do much for my pain, but then I am an expendable deplorable. It is good to see trans women, go, go and more go, in sports like weight lifting and powerlifting, but I think some people may be playing with us open-minded egalitarian types: