Maybe you’ve been reading fanfic. Maybe you’ve stumbled across it in the tags. Or maybe it’s in someone’s search history and it’s affecting what algorithms are pushing at you now. Any which way, you find yourself asking: What is mpreg?
As a longtime reader and writer of mpreg, I’m in a good position to answer that question. Please keep an open mind as you read this post, and don’t forget, there’s a back button on the browser. You can also close the window to get out of here if anything weirds you out too much. Mpreg is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine.
So, what’s mpreg?
What Is Mpreg?
It doesn’t really matter how you landed on this page. There’s a good chance you saw the term “mpreg” somewhere and now you’re curious. So, what does “mpreg” mean?
The mpreg definition is pretty simple. It’s a short form that stands for “male pregnancy.”
I’ll wait a second while some of you hightail it out of here, answer in hand. The rest of you still have questions, so let’s dive a bit deeper into the subject.
What Does Mpreg Mean?
We’ve established that the term “mpreg”’s meaning is simply male pregnancy. But what does that actually mean?
The simple version of that is simply “dudes getting pregnant.” Most often, people refer to (presumably) cisgender men getting pregnant.
This isn’t scientifically possible at this point in time. Some people have speculated on whether it would be possible or not. The general conclusion is that a placenta would have to attach to a major organ like the stomach. Subsequent separation would mean that the guy would likely bleed out. And that’s just the start of the problems.
So, long story short, “real” mpreg isn’t possible. And there’s a particular question: Why would anyone want it to be?
Obviously, there are people who enjoy mpreg stories. So we could speculate that there are maybe some people who might want to test it out.
Mpreg Is Part of Common Mythology
Humanity’s fascination with the idea of a cisgender male human becoming pregnant runs deeper than the surface level, though. There’s something about it that intrigues us. Maybe because it’s weird, or maybe because it seems to “invert” nature.
Why do I say that? Well, mpreg actually shows up all over the place. It’s most freely expressed in fandom and the MM romance genre, but it definitely exists out side of those spaces. Examples include the 1994 Arnold Schwazenegger flick Junior (a comedy, in which Arnie plays a scientist who experiments on himself). Another is The Fairly Odd Parents, in which Cosmo is the one to do the childbearing duties. More recently, the Netflix series Big Mouth featured one of the male hormone monsters getting pregnant.
Mythology Plays with Mpreg Too
Okay, so pop culture really likes this weirdo trope. But if we look back in time, we can see mpreg (and other gender-bending) exists through the mists of time. The most prominent example is the Norse trickster god Loki. Famously, Loki transforms into a mare and becomes pregnant, giving birth to Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
That’s not necessarily “mpreg,” since Loki is a female horse at the time. We can argue this tale features mpreg, but in a weird gender-bendy sort of way. A clearer example is the variant of a myth that say Loki himself gave birth to Hel, Fenrir, and Jorgumandr. In this version of the myth, Loki becomes impregnated after eating the giant Angrboda’s heart.
Most versions feature Angrboda and Loki begetting these children in the usual way, but the Loki-gives-birth version does exist—and it might explain the monstrous nature of the children. Loki eating Angrboda’s heart is an unnatural act. As a result, he undergoes an “unnatural” pregnancy and gives birth to “monstrous” children.
Another mythological example might be Zeus, the “king” of the Greek pantheon. Zeus gives birth to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Now, this isn’t mpreg in the sense most people think of it: Athena springs fully formed from Zeus’s forehead. Most mpreg readers would be kinda disappointed by that version of the myth. We can still think of Zeus as being in a “pregnant” state and “giving birth” to Athena. In that sense, this is definitely a tale of a dude who got pregnant.
Can Mpreg Actually Happen IRL?
In the natural world, true mpreg does actually occur. It’s limited to about two species:
• Seadragons and other pipefish
Seahorses are probably the most infamous mpreg critters. The female seahorse uses an ovipositor to deposit eggs in the male seahorse’s pouch. The male seahorse then fertilizes the eggs and carries the young until they hatch.
Seadragons and pipefish are similar, except their pouches are on their tails. They’re very closely related to seahorses, so this isn’t all that surprising.
This tendency of the seahorse family is why characters who undergo mpreg scenarios are sometimes said to have “seahorse biology.” (I did this literally in Hook, Line & Sinker, which features a seahorse alien shifter.)
What about Humans?
As I noted above, what most people think of as mpreg is a cisgender man becoming pregnant. This is a scientific impossibility, so most mpreg stories deal with sci-fi tech, aliens, or magic to make it possible.
There are a couple of “real life” ways mpreg can and does happen. The first, and most common, is trans men. Trans men are XX phenotypical, which often means they have ovaries and uteri. Some trans men choose not to have these organs removed. Testosterone doesn’t always inhibit ovarian function either.
The result? Some trans men can get pregnant—and some do indeed get pregnant.
Now, some people would argue trans men aren’t men (and we ignore them, because they’re wrong). Others would say that doesn’t really fit the definition of “mpreg,” in part because mpreg is male pregnancy. Trans men are not “male” in the biological sense, so there’s a question of whether they “really” count. In the sense that mpreg is about a man getting pregnant, though, they absolutely do.
Some intersex individuals may also be capable of becoming pregnant, even if they identify as men. In some cases, intersex individuals may appear “as” cisgender men, but they actually have functioning ovaries and uteri. Intersex conditions are relatively common, and there are cases where someone with a “male” phenotype functions as “female.”
What all this means is that nature and biological sex categories are a lot more complicated than we like to admit. In that sense, mpreg is actually something that can happen.
How Does Mpreg Work in Fiction Then?
This is a pretty broad question, and there are a lot of different answers to it. The short version is “how mpreg works” will depend on the mpreg story you’re interacting with. In fantasy stories, it might be magic or a curse, or it could be a fantastical species. In sci-fi, it could be some super-advanced technology. Or it might alien biology.
Omegaverse is often a specialized version of mpreg that explains the possibility through the “secondary sex” of alpha, beta, or omega. People might still be “male” and “female,” but whether they’re alpha, beta, or omega determines if they can bear children. Many of these stories feature different animal shifters.
Eggpreg is another specific subset of mpreg, which features a male character being impregnated by having an egg “laid” inside them. This is the usual “seahorse biology” thing. The impregnated character may simply be an incubator in these stories; they don’t contribute any genetic material of their own.
What’s the Deal with Mpreg’s Popularity?
Mpreg is a subset of pregnancy kink, so people who like both “secret baby” and “accidental pregnancy” stories might like mpreg too.
This isn’t always true, though. Some people like mpreg but they don’t like “regular preg” stories. Some people simply don’t like stories featuring women or heterosexual couples.
The underlying misogyny and patriarchal power structures can make “regular preg” stories uncomfortable for some readers. A good example is one of Colleen Hoover’s novels, which ends with the heroine thanking her partner for the “perfect” baby he “gave” her.
That’s Patriarchy 101, where a woman is expected to find fulfillment in bearing and raising children for her husband. While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating your partner, such sentiments from the heroine generally smack of patriarchy.
Another example of how problematic pregnancy plot lines comes from one of SJM’s novels, in which the male MC knows about the female MC’s pregnancy before she does. He knows this is extremely dangerous for her and could result in her dying. He opts to withhold the information from her. Male control over female reproduction is a staple of patriarchal power, so this entire plot line feels uncomfortable.
Perceived Masculinity Gives Agency
Mpreg often gives characters agency. Nobody expects a man to get pregnant, so the situation is often surprising, baffling, and concerning. Characters often have to hash out exactly how they feel about not only the pregnancy but the fact they can get pregnant. The very idea that someone might have feelings about getting or being pregnant is often conspicuously absent in heterosexual romance. Even if the woman starts out uncomfortable, she’s usually magically happy within a couple of chapters.
How does mpreg get away with this? Most men have more “power” than most women. Bodily autonomy is a given for men, whereas women are trained to protect against violations, such as being groped or worse. Getting pregnant is assumed to be the woman’s “fault.” Women bear the brunt of birth control responsibilities, and abstinence is often pushed as the “preventive” method. If a woman accidentally becomes pregnant, it must be her fault—either through a lapse in her birth control regimen or because she’s a slut.
Men don’t suffer under the same assumptions. If a male character is “surprised” by the fact he can get pregnant, there isn’t necessarily blame for it. In fact, in many cases, it’s outside of his control. If a wizard did it, for example, we’re not going to blame the character for not thinking about condoms or failing to simply keep his legs shut.
Thus, mpreg lifts a good deal of the burden of misogyny and patriarchal power from the pregnant character’s shoulder—which can feel more comfortable.
It’s also a way of more freely exploring what many assume to be an unnatural—and even horrifying—state. Pregnancy fascinates and repulses us because it is so “abnormal.” If a woman becomes pregnant, though, we’re trained to assume that’s a good thing and she should be happy. In fact, “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” is assumed to be the “natural” state for women. When a man becomes pregnant, however, the pregnancy is allowed to operate in all its strangeness. We’re allowed to think of it as weird or unnatural. Mpreg, then, probably exists because it allows us to explore those mixed feelings to what is, admittedly, a pretty weird state.
That goes quite a long way towards explaining why mpreg is any kind of popular, although it remains a niche. The people who like it really like it. Those who don’t—well, they’ve probably already headed for the hills.
Now you know the answer to “what is mpreg” and a bit about how it works, and even why it’s so popular. The next time you see this tag on a fic or story, you’ll know whether you want to one-click it—or hit the back button.