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Reproductive health risks and clinician practices with gender diverse adolescents and young adults

Gwendolyn P. Quinn, Amy C. Tishelman, Diane Chen, Leena Nahata


Background: Reproductive health counseling is essential for adolescents and young adults (AYAs). Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) AYAs would benefit from tailored counseling given concerns about iatrogenic infertility and sexual dysfunction, and high rates of interpersonal violence, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, yet there are multiple obstacles to providing this care at the patient/family and clinician levels.

Objectives: This narrative review summarizes the literature on reproductive health considerations for TGD AYAs, current practices, and clinician barriers and facilitators to providing culturally sensitive reproductive care for TGD AYAs. Specific areas of focus include reproductive health goals, risks, and access barriers; clinician knowledge practices and challenges; and strategies for improving counseling practices.

Materials and methods: PubMed, Google Scholar, Medline, Web of Science, and PsycInfo databases were searched using the following terms: transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, gender non-conforming, reproductive health, sexual health, fertility, family planning/building, contraception, sexual dysfunction; gender-affirming hormones/surgery, clinician, physician or provider knowledge and attitudes; counseling.

Results: Many TGD AYAs desire biological children and improved sexual experiences. TGD AYAs may experience infertility and sexual dysfunction associated with transition; have disproportionate HIV/STI risk; experience high rates of interpersonal/sexual violence and trauma; and encounter barriers to accessing competent medical care. Clinicians lack knowledge about reproductive health needs of TGD AYAs; inconsistently discuss family building options; perceive counseling challenges; and desire more training in this area.

Discussion: Enriched communication training for medical/mental health clinicians is necessary to provide a skilled workforce for TGD AYAs. Web-based reproductive health training with other populations (eg oncology) demonstrates efficacy for improving communication skills and confidence in counseling,

Conclusion: This review highlights barriers to adequate reproductive care encountered by TGD AYAs, exacerbated in underserved minority youth. Dedicated training for providers, and programs increasing access are important goals for improving care. The need for additional research is also emphasized.

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