Sperm quality in transgender women before or after gender affirming hormone therapy-A prospective cohort study

Andrology. 2021 Nov;9(6):1773-1780. doi: 10.1111/andr.12999. Epub 2021 Mar 23.

Abstract

Background: Due to recent changes in the legal framework, access to fertility preservation (FP) for transgender individuals has opened up in several countries. In Sweden and the Nordic countries, fertility preservation for medical reasons is fully reimbursed as part of the established tax-funded healthcare services. As this issue is relatively new, procedures for FP have seldom been reported in the transgender patient population. The very limited literature has indicated that transgender women may have poorer sperm quality than cisgender men when assessing samples aimed at semen banking.

Objectives: To assess sperm quality parameters of semen samples provided for FP by transgender women before or after gender affirming hormone therapy (GAHT), and to compare sperm quality with a reference population of unscreened men defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, we aimed to describe referral patterns over calendar time and estimate time from referral to semen cryopreservation.

Material and methods: Prospective cohort study of 212 transgender women referred for FP to the Reproductive Medicine Clinic of Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden, between 2013 and 2018. Among 177 individuals that provided semen samples for cryopreservation, 16 had previously received GAHT.

Results: Individuals with previous GAHT presented with significantly lower total sperm count than individuals without GAHT (p = 0.002). However, higher proportions of sperm abnormalities were also noted among individuals who had not undergone previous GAHT, compared to the WHO reference population (p < 0.001). Referrals of transgender women for FP increased over time. The median time from referral to semen cryopreservation was 27 days.

Conclusions: A high occurrence of sperm abnormalities was found in transgender women, especially among individuals who had previously received GAHT. The results underline the importance of thoroughly discussing parenthood options and FP with patients early after diagnosis and referring the patients for semen banking preferably before starting GAHT.

Keywords: fertility preservation; gender affirming hormone therapy; gender dysphoria; semen sample; sperm quality; transgender women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fertility Preservation
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Semen Analysis*
  • Sex Reassignment Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Sweden
  • Transsexualism / drug therapy*
  • Transsexualism / physiopathology