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Fertility Discussions: Perspectives of Adolescents and Young Adults With Differences of Sex Development

Papadakis JL, Poquiz JL, Buchanan CL, Chan YM, Crerand CE, Hansen-Moore J, Kapa HM, Nahata L, Pratt KJ, Tishelman AC, Chen D

Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology

Objective: Fertility-related health care and decision-making needs for youth with differences of sex development (DSD) are complex and vary by condition and the values and preferences of each individual and their partner and/or family. Discussing fertility implications can be a challenging aspect of clinician and family communication about a DSD diagnosis. This qualitative study assesses fertility-related communication experiences of adolescents and young adults (AYA) with DSD.

Method: Participants included 97 AYA with DSD ages 12-26 years (M = 18.5, SD = 3.9) who completed questionnaires on demographic and medical information and patient-clinician communication. A subsample of 33 AYA also completed semistructured interviews about experiences with fertility discussions.

Results: Two major themes, each with subthemes, were identified: (1) understanding of fertility related to (1a) one's own fertility status, (1b) reproductive and parenting options, and (1c) emotional reactions to one's own fertility status and (2) conversations about fertility related to (2a) reflections on conversations, (2b) barriers, and (2c) advice.

Conclusions: AYA perspectives in this study provide important information about how youth with DSD learn about their fertility status, the impact their fertility status has on them, and the fertility-related conversations they have with their providers and families. Specific recommendations for providers and parents or caregivers include the following: inform youth of their fertility status as early as possible; be direct but patient in delivering information; begin by giving basic information and provide more detail as the conversation unfolds; revisit the conversation over time to allow for further discussion or information-seeking; offer additional information or resources, including behavioral health resources.

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