Pregnancy in a true hermaphrodite with a remaining ovotestis

A pregnancy would be uncommon because most true intersex people, if not all of them, have incomplete reproductive organs.

A person who is intersex may be able to become pregnant, carry the pregnancy, and give birth if they have a more complete set of reproductive organs. It is therefore theoretically possible to become pregnant and give birth if the uterus and ovaries are both in good working order.

One can have both testicular and ovarian tissue if they have both female and male chromosome pairs (47XXY, 46XX/46XY, 46XX/47XXY, or 45X/XY mosaic). Previously, these people were labeled as “hermaphrodites,” but the nomenclature needs to change. Disorders of sex development, also known as intersex or **DSDs**, are being discussed as potential replacements.

Numerous variations exist, and some hermaphrodites have more male genitalia than female, while others have the opposite.

We and many others have noticed that males disappear from laboratory cultures of some wild isolates of C. elegans while they persist in others (Fig. 1). In collaboration with Hinrich Schulenburg at the University of Kiel, we address the questions what might cause these differences in male maintenance and under what circumstances out-crossing or self-fertilization might be favored.

In C. elegans, the two sexes are hermaphrodites and males. Hermaphrodites have two ways to reproduce: they can mate with a male and use the male’s sperm to fertilize their eggs, or they can self-fertilize. While almost all self-fertilized offspring are hermaphrodite, only about half of cross-fertilized offspring are male.

Wegewitz, V., Schulenburg, H. and Streit, A. (2009). Do males facilitate the spread of novel phenotypes within populations of the androdioecious nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Journal of Nematology 41, 247-254. Wegewitz, V., Schulenburg, H. and Streit, A. (2008). Experimental insight into the proximate causes of male persistence variation among two strains of the androdioeciousCaenorhabditis elegans (Nematoda). BMC Ecology 8, 12. © Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen |

There is a “choice” between out-crossing and self-reproduction in the two nematode species we are working with. In S. Both sexually reproducing free-living generations and parasitic offspring that reproduce parthenogenetically can be produced by papillosus parasitic females. Figure 1: Reduction in the percentage of males in different strains of C laboratory cultures elegans over time.

Intersexuality, as strictly defined, is the presence of ambiguous or mixed male and female genitalia. Within this category, attempts have been made to tease out subtle differences, such as between true hermaphrodites, male pseudohermaphrodites, and female pseudohermaphrodites. This is a pretty exclusive group, no matter how you slice it — about one in 5,000 people are sufficiently different from the norm to be classified as intersex.

I’m telling you, this is a stretch, but the only way I can imagine self-fertilization occurring in a human is in a chimerical individual made of two fused embryos. Of course not, nudnik, would the child of such a person be a clone. In order to reproduce someone whose genetics were, by definition, an irreproducible accident, you would first need to duplicate their genetic makeup. Second, since the two merged embryos would be fraternal twins (one would be male and the other would be female, right? ), they would have different genetic makeup. Third, the mechanics of sexual reproduction at the chromosome level (you remember that fascinating meiosis discussion from sophomore biology? ), would guarantee that the genetic deck received an honest shuffle. Therefore, even though a hermaphrodite’s offspring would undoubtedly be a close relative of its parents, it would be very different from a xerox copy.

We must look elsewhere in the animal kingdom, but even there, the options are limited for finding a living thing that can bear children. In some species, both hermaphroditism and having a full complement of male and female organs at various stages of development are common. In spite of this, autofertilization is uncommon, usually occurring only in certain types of earthworms. A curious case involving an intersex rabbit that became pregnant twice in a row after being isolated and having already given birth to more than 250 baby bunnies caught my attention. Ovaries and testes were discovered during the investigation (although the latter appeared to be infertile), along with some unusual sex chromosomes. What can I say? Nature coughs up some weird shit.

Intersexuality is almost always the result of a genetic disorder. Some diseases, like Klinefelter syndrome, where males are born with an extra X chromosome, or androgen insensitivity syndrome, where a genetically male baby can’t process male hormones and grows up female, have only a minor effect on quality of life. Hell, some people have even turned their genetic quirks into Olympic gold. Other conditions present more serious challenges. There are reports of people with gonads that combine male and female parts, women born without vaginas, and even some people who were born with both a penis and a vagina. When male and female embryos combine genetically to form one person, it creates an unusual type of intersex person known as a chimera. If you feel like you struggle with identity in your everyday life, try coming to terms with that.

Historically, those who didn’t fit into one of the two traditional sex categories have struggled. A Scottish intersex person who worked as a female servant in the 1600s is described in the story as having impregnated at least one of her master’s daughters and being sentenced to death by being buried alive. One Levi Suydam applied to vote as a Whig in a tight local election in Salisbury, Connecticut, in 1843. Levi was a woman, the opposition objected, and women wouldn’t be granted the right to vote for another 80 years. Levi had a variety of sexual apparatus, according to the doctors called in to examine the “hanging chad,” but they concluded that he was primarily male. When his vote was tallied, the Whigs prevailed by one vote. But a few days later, during a second examination, it was found that Levi had been menstruating for years and had a set of “well developed mammae” that the doctors had somehow overlooked during the initial examination.

Can intersex people get pregnant?

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