Transgender health care: What to know
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 150,000 youth and 1.4 million adults in the United States identify as transgender. Transgender refers to a person who identifies with a different gender identity from their assigned sex at birth. Transgender or gender non-conforming individuals have the same basic health care needs as cisgender people, including regular preventive visits and screenings. They may also require medical care related to their transition, namely hormone therapy or surgery.
Unfortunately, transgender individuals often face social and financial barriers to routine health care, and are at risk for worse health outcomes. If you are transgender, it’s important to find a medical provider who can address your questions and concerns in a safe, inclusive and affirming environment.
Transgender health care: What to consider
Here are some reasons for transgender individuals to seek medical care:
If you’re interested in transitioning using hormone medications or surgery, it’s crucial that you receive the best, safest treatment under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. Your provider can discuss medication and surgical options and the cost of these. Using other individuals hormones or buying them outside of provider’s care can be dangerous and result in serious health issues such as blood clots or liver disease. Injecting hormones or other materials such as silicone can result in HIV or bacterial infections.
Most primary care doctors can direct you to a provider that can discuss transition and hormone therapy. Some organizations, such as WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), provide a database of providers that see trans and gender non-conforming patients.
Fertility and STD prevention.
You may wish to discuss fertility with your health care provider if you choose to do gender-affirmation surgery or hormone therapy. It is possible to sometimes still become pregnant while on hormone therapy and you may need to discuss birth control options with your provider. Some treatments may affect your ability to have children in the future, and you will need to discuss if you want to preserve the option of having children. You can discuss how often you may need sexually transmitted infection screenings, and how to best prevent getting STDs.
Transgender individuals should have a regular preventative care visit with their providers. Your doctor will review immunizations, discuss mental health, and screen for intimate partner violence. Your doctor will recommend cancer screenings based on the anatomic organs you have. For example, transmen that still have a cervix will need periodic pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. You may need some additional screenings if you are on hormone therapy. For example, trans women should have mammograms if they have been on hormone therapy 5-10 years and are over 50 years old.
While you may have questions, concerns or fears about seeking medical care, please know that there are gender-affirming medical professionals ready to support you and help you live your healthiest, happiest life. To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.
Dr. McDonald is a board-certified family medicine physician at Pardee Primary Care Arden. She is also a member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and provides gender-affirming care.