"In the year 6565A uterine replicator is a way of growing a child outside the human body by using technology, magic, or a combination of the two in place of the mother's womb. The reasons for this are many and varied: sometimes it's done to combat problems with sterility, or it's done as a means of population control or abortion alternative, or as a way to protect the mother from Death by Childbirth, or even to let two men reproduce together without invoking the rather messy issues of Mr. Seahorse. It can even be simply a case of a Truly Single Parent with a rather unique personal philosophy wishing not to "pollute" his/her child (often a Designer Baby) by exposure to the "flawed" environment of a natural/organic womb. While sometimes deployed in seeking the benefits described above, such devices are also often a staple of Dystopian settings. In the most typical scenario, popularized by works such as Brave New World, a power-hungry totalitarian government outlaws all sex (or specifically all reproductive sex), and claims exclusive rights to making children, who it can then easily brainwash into accepting the government's official ideology and their place in society without question from birth (or even from conception) due to their having no biochemically based emotional attachments to their parents. In less-well-written stories of this kind, whoever's rebelling against said government is likely to contend that the technology itself is inherently evil because the method is artificial, rather than that the government is evil for using it as part of its oppressive brainwashing techniques. (Likewise, they may undercut their own moral position by contending there's something inherently evil about the children produced this way, on the grounds that having no biochemical attachment to one's parents somehow "erases" one's humanity.) In an increasing number of science-fiction settings where a society is portrayed as promoting gender equality, uterine replicators are a way of allowing women to skip the mental and physical health risks of natural pregnancy to mother and child, particularly if the mother works in an inherently dangerous environment or occupation such as the military. If the child grown in such a device is also genetically engineered (as is often the case), see Designer Babies. Artificial Humans are invariably the products of this.
Ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube
Ain't gonna need no husband, won't need no wife
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube
— Zager and Evans, "In the Year 2525"
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Osamu Tezuka's Apollo's Song, the Syntheans have no genitalia, and instead reproduce by cloning.
- In Ergo Proxy, all citizens are born from artificial wombs due to being clones created from DNA stored within the Proxies. Maybe.
- In Franken Fran, Fran devises a replicator based on the life cycle of flies. The baby starts out as a maggot, becomes a cocoon, then hatches as a normal baby. Another doctor steals her research and mass-markets the technique. The series being what it is, it goes horribly wrong, as the doctor didn't bother testing how the cocoons would fare when brought outside of a sterile environment.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, it is stated that because of the reduced gravity in space, pregnancies were particularly dangerous, and so a lot of babies (including Quatre's sisters) were born this way. Eventually, they found some way to make natural pregnancy and birth safe for most women in the space colonies. Sadly, Quatre's mother was not one of them.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Kira Yamato is considered the "Ultimate Coordinator" because he was grown in one of these, which means his genetic mods came out exactly as intended because there weren't any outside factors from the mother to influence them. Thus far, he is the only known human being to ever successfully be gestated this way, and more are not likely forthcoming anytime soon, as the facility was a secret one destroyed by a terrorist attack, so the technology is no longer around.
- In Vandread, humanity has split into a planet of all males called Tarak and a planet of all females called Mejare. DNA from a couple is manipulated to give a new baby. On Tarak, this means a factory birth, while on Mejare, the baby is implanted in the womb to be born normally. This makes them effectively a pair of One Gender Races, though normal breeding could be resumed. Note that these are not the only colony worlds left, just the main ones we see.
- A variation in the backstory of the Tenchi Muyo! OVA series with the character Airi Masaki. She was in a Secret Relationship with Yosho, the crown prince of Jurai, and wound up getting pregnant by him. But because their races hated each other she knew the child would be killed if her people found out about it, so she had the embryo removed from her and placed into a device like this temporarily until she was in a position where she could have the child returned to her and give birth in safety. The result was their daughter Minaho, Tenchi's aunt.
- Ryoko was also grown in one of these,◊ along with Ryo-ohki.
- Crest of the Stars: The standard way to have children among the Abh. Even when the child is conceived in the normal manner, the embryo is immediately removed and altered to become an Abh. It's said that a mother may choose to have her gene-altered child placed in her womb and go through pregnancy, but this is very rare. The technology is freely available among the Abh, while the United Mankind abhors genetic engineering of any kind and forbids such technology. It's unknown how the other nations feel about it.
- In Armitage III, the Thirds are essentially uterine replicators combined with Sexbots. The Thirds are androids who are so human, they are capable of getting pregnant and bearing children.
- The society of Toward the Terra established by the S.D. Government uses this exclusively. All babies are born in test tubes, then assigned to a couple to be raised, and once they reach a certain age (this troper forgets exactly, somewhere around puberty) the memories of those parents are removed and the child moves on to life as an adult. It's all system set up by the computer which runs the Superior Domination Government in order to control humans, and the memory erasure is to detect and weed out new abnormal evolutions that the computer does not if they're a good thing or bad thing. When pairs of Mu decide to have children the "natural way", it's at first believed impossible but the result is the 7 most powerful Mu to ever exist.
- In the Dark Horse Comics run of The Terminator, a group of post-apocalypse survivors in the ruins of Disneyworld have created a breeding program to repopulate humanity after many were sterilized by radiation; using artificial wombs grown from seaweed, and, oddly enough, the ova of a group of nuns (and whatever fertile males they ran across).
- For a while, this was true of Kryptonian births, such that the rocket that spirited Kal-El away to Earth actually contained his "birthing matrix." As such, he was literally born on Earth. It's been retconned out of existence, although Justice League: Gods And Monsters reuses that idea.
- In Alejandro Jodorowsky's Megalex, the police clones are born from one of these. In this case it resembles a large black sphere with a techno-vagina on the front of it. Obviously the clones come out of that. It even features a flashing red clitoris announcing the birth of a clone.
- Judge Dredd: Joseph Dredd and the rest of his clones were developed in these. They were artificially aged to about 5 years, then aged normally from that point on.
- In The Matrix, most humans are "grown" by the robots on People Farms.
- In Star Wars the army of the Republic was created this way by Kaminoan cloners.
- In Man of Steel Kryptonians are by now all born this way. Kal-El is unique in that he's the first naturally born (and non-genetically designed) baby in literally thousands of years.
- Discussed in Victor Frankenstein. Victor gets really, really drunk and raves about the concept (and test-tube babies) to a couple of ladies at a nightclub.
- Replicant: The Replicant was grown in an artificial womb, coming out as a full-grown adult.
- Older Than Television: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Babies are "grown" here too (and "decanted" rather than "born"), though this was before the development of modern genetics, so they must resort to more complicated and organic means than flipping genetic switches to create their hereditary castes. In-vitro oxygen starvation and alcohol poisoning is involved.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
- The ubiquitous "uterine replicators", which carry fertilized embryos donated by the parents in place of the mother, form an interesting outlier from most fiction: rather than being portrayed as technological dehumanization, they are presented as a positive medical breakthrough (sparing both mother and child from the health-endangering stresses of pregnancy and labor, and allowing for easy pre-screening and treatment of any genetic defects prenatally) comparable with antisepsis, anesthesia, and vaccination. It's implied repeatedly and outright stated at least once that the uterine replicators are going to do more to shake up the backwards society of Barrayar than just about anything else.
- In the novel Ethan of Athos, the planet of Athos is populated entirely by men who grow babies using egg cells taken from ovarian tissue cultures. Children are usually reared by couples in an informal kind of marriage.
- The Cetagandan Haut-lords in the Vorkosiverse reproduce entirely without sex or even coupling being involved... In fact, the parents may never even meet or make any decisions. Every child is created through contracts arranged by high-ranking family members, frequently with positive genetic alterations added, then the baby cooked up in a replicator and handed to the appropriate household for rearing. The ruling Haut are practically considered a superhuman sub-race at this point, though a good number of their enhancements are Awesome, but Impractical aesthetic improvements. In their case every child is designed by the central government, and the biological parents may never meet at all.
- Beta Colony, where the technology of the replicators was invented, has 3/4ths of the population come out of a replicator, with the rest being born naturally, and it's fairly consistently shown replicator births to be a standard practice throughout advanced culture.
- "Tubing," the practice of bringing babies to term in artificial wombs, is a matter-of-fact staple of medicine in Honor Harrington, although the attitudes towards it varies amongst different cultures. The setting is unusual in that the child is often conceived normally and then transferred to the artificial womb, rather than being limited to those created using wholly artificial means. Honor's own son, Raoul, is conceived by accident and tubed so she can continue her military career.
- In the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, people can opt to have children via Womb Tank rather than give birth naturally.
- And in his Night's Dawn trilogy, the Edenists grow their children in pods that actually don't hatch until the child is the equivalent of 1 year old.
- Played with in Dune: various genetically modified humans with special abilities (e.g. Face Dancers) created by the Tleilaxu in what are referred to as "axolotl tanks." Everyone assumes this means something along the lines of this trope, but it's eventually revealed that the 'tanks' are in fact what happens to all Tleilaxu female children, turned braindead and hooked up to technology to become birthing machines.
- In a number of stories by Isaac Asimov, Spacers reproduce this way, most prominently Solaria. One of the characters remarks that had it been so in his case, he would have likely never been allowed to born due to his large ears.
- At one point in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, this appears on Earth because homosexuality has become almost universal, with heterosexuality being considered to be deviant.
- Heterosexual sex is certainly possible - and extremely common - among the people of the dome cities in Biting the Sun, but babies are grown in tanks. It turns out they're still capable of having kids the normal way if they stop eating the contraceptive-laced City food.'
- Done in Mary Suetopia in Marge Piercy's Woman at the Edge of Time. Connie discovers the colony's children are grown in this way and usually given to three parents, who are not likely blood relations. The reasoning for this is that to achieve racial and gender equality, certain things had to be given up.
- Prince Roger was a tube baby although like the Honor Harrington series by the same author he was conceived naturally, the transfer to the tube being done purely for convenience. Uterine replication bites the protagonists in the ass later, when the rebels grow a new heir from Roger's parents' DNA.
- Crest of the Stars: Most Abh are born in one of these. Even those who are born the old fashioned way are generally brought to term in one since they have to be extracted from their mother's body and be tested for certain traits that both define them as Abh (the blue hair, third eye and a few other things) and for certain family traits (the long pointy ears are legally restricted to the Abriel family). Carrying a child to term in utero is considered extremely eccentric and not an option for half the population since Abh are raised by a single parent.
- In the Firebird Trilogy, the Shuhr use this technology to create their children, rendering pregnancy all but obsolete in the most urban region of their planet. The sociological implications of this get brought up - not having to carry the child to term naturally reduces the mother's emotional attachment to said child. When the daughter of a major Shuhr official is forced to bear a Designer Baby made from tissue samples taken from one of the heroes naturally, she finds herself unwilling to give birth to a child purely to further her family's schemes, and defects to the father's side to save the child.
- Used by the robotic transhuman individuals in The Winemaster by Robert Reed. As they reside in tiny, fantastically fast bodies and die quickly due to heavy atoms disrupting their neural pathways, they "reproduce" by constructing a child in an artificial womb, then implanting it with human neural pathways. By the time the story takes place, almost all the transhumans were never even human to begin with - instead being the "children" of the original transhumans.
- In Courtship Rite the Kaiel clan uses these to keep their birthrate high, although they ruthlessly cull their children. Three quarters of all Kaiel creche-born children become dinner before reaching adulthood. (And these are, more-or-less, the good guys.) The Kaiel replicators are biological constructs; their predecessors, the now-extinct Arant clan, used mechanical ones.
- In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millenia, Hormagaunts would prevent the ill from getting themselves cryogenically suspended to avoid loss of their perfectly usable organs — including wombs, which could be maintained long after the rest of the woman was not.
- Due to the Sterility Plague, these are the only way of reproducing in Edenborn.
- Mostly benign examples crop up in some of the Eight Worlds stories by John Varley; people tend to keep them on their coffee tables, peeping at their developing embryos through the viewports and boring their dinner guests by obsessing about their contents but that's about as bad as it gets. Given the near magical state of medicine and the availability of transhuman modifications to make birth easier "natural" reproduction is still about as popular. Boss Tweed does use artificial means to create an army of illegal clones in The Oppiuchi Hotline but in Varley's future natural reproduction is more likely to be problematic, as it implies someone avoiding proper medical attention either through malfeasance (The Golden Globe) or carelessness (Steel Beach.)
- A key plot element in Beowulf's Children by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes; Tau Ceti is colonized mostly by Human Popsicles and their descendants, but artificial wombs were provided just in case the women had trouble conceiving on an alien world. The colonists produced a creche of "Bottle Babies" before settling into producing them the old-fashioned way, and due to cryogenic brain damage never noticed a nasty problem with the tech until almost two decades later;
"Some kind of academic dominance game was going on. Those can get nasty. I think some of their theories got sent and some got buried. Numbers, too. One theory had to do with the endocrinal flux in the uterus. The numbers we got suggest that the actual ebb and flow of biochemical products as the mother is awake, asleep, afraid, hungry, tired, sexually stimulated, whatever...is a form of communication between mother and child. It's another nutrient...an emotional nutrient, if you will, as important as blood or oxygen. When you try to create a computer program to simulate the messages that a mother sends to her child, you have to remember that it is a feedback loop between the mother and the fetus. Thousands of fetuses were studied, and the ways that their mothers responded to them were recorded, and a refinement of everything that was learned was created for use in the creches. Except a camel is a horse designed by committee. There is a difference between the clumsy elegance of the human body and the sophisticated, intellectual choices made by a committee of experts deciding which endocrinological experiences are good for baby. They tried to round out the experience. This mood swing was inappropriate, that orgasmic response pattern was a biochemical form of child abuse, a mother experiencing anger is damaging her child. The liberals swung the profile one way, the conservatives another. Too many morphemes. Too much adrenaline. Chill those kiddies out."
- Most of the creche were quickly adopted by the community, but they never gave much thought to the highly intelligent Aaron Tragon instead spending all his time with the ship's computers; because the biochemical stimulation in his bottle was too tame and he never bonded with a family to offset it, he is not only a sociopath, but a megalomaniac who ends up killing the primary colony's leader rather than let his splinter colony be abandoned.
Live Action TV
- These are used in Kyle XY under the theory that the longer a child spends in the womb, the more gifted they will be.
- In Red Dwarf, episode Ouroboros, it is implied that Lister is grown in a uterine simulator rather than a woman.
- While not human, the Asgard in the Stargate-verse reproduce in this manner. They also grow "blank" clone bodies to replace their own when they die. The drawback: Clone Degeneration has left them a Dying Race.
- In Star Trek: Voyager, a transporter malfunction fuses some of Seven's Borg nanoprobes with the Doctor's mobile emitter. The nanoprobes adapt the technology and everything in the science lab where it's kept to grow a Borg drone from scratch, using a tissue sample from an Ensign sent to check up on the emitter.
- "In the Year 2525", as seen in the page quote.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Think I'm A Clone Now" mentions "a womb with a view".
- Jonathan Coulton's song, "Womb With A View".
- In Utero by Nirvana.
- "905" by The Who starts here, and is basically the story of a citizen of Brave New World's utopia (along with the numerical naming of We).
- Alchemical writings from the 16th century suggest growing a living homunculus from human sperm, incubated in a sealed vessel in the warmth of a mare's womb.
- In Paranoia, everyone is grown in a clone vat, and 'decanted' rather than born.
- In BattleTech, the Clans of Kerensky produce the majority of their warrior caste this way (combined with a sort of eugenic Designer Babies system of parentage). They call themselves "Trueborn" while those sired the old-fashioned way are "Freeborn". Their superiority as warriors over their Inner Sphere opponents is widely variable; ranging from the markedly superior Elemental phenotype (massive, muscle-bound infantrymen, combined with Powered Armor), to the only modestly superior MechWarrior phenotype (superiority largely lost by their rigid honorable combat ethic when up against the more pragmatic Inner Sphere mechwarriors), to the indiscernable lack of superiority (and sometimes inferiority) between Clan and Inner Sphere aerospace pilots.
- Special mention must go to Diana Pryde who threw a rather large wrench into the Clans neat classification scheme. She's Freeborn, conceived and born the old fashioned way... but she's the daughter of two Trueborns which means gets all the benefits of the Clan's breeding programs.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Players who wondered how the Dark Eldar kept their population stable despite being much more aggressive (especially towards each other) than the slowly-dying Craftworld Eldar got their answer in the 5th edition codex - the Dark Eldar supplement their normal births with huge numbers of vat-grown, accelerated fetuses created by twisted Haemonculi covens. This leads to yet another social divide within Commorrite society, as the traditionally-birthed "Trueborn" are lavished with attention by their parents and look down on the mass-produced "halfborn."
- The human Death Korps of Krieg also use a device called a Vitae Womb, which is usually banned in most of the Imperium, due to low fertility rates and birth defects caused by fallout from a past civil war that went nuclear. In some versions the real reason is actually because everybody died in the civil war except one guy and every single person on Krieg is a clone of him.
- The Adeptus Mechanicus will sometimes use this to as a means for reproduction, either for convenience, lack of a partner, or because any women may have had their uterus removed and replaced with bionic equipment as the Mechanicus tends to do.
- The Dark Mechanicus has also dabbled in this from time to time, usually to supplement any Chaos Space Marine forces who hired them. The most infamous version was the Daemonculaba (you'll probably be happier not knowing the details), a prominent plot device used in a novel involving the Iron Warriors.note The Warsmith had a cadre of Dark Mechanicus biologists and "physicians" on staff, and his inheritor, Warsmith Honsou, used them to devise, operate and maintain the Daemonculaba as a method to hothouse new Space Marines for his forces. Though there's a high rate of failure resulting in either corpses or monstrous mutants, Honsou was satisfied enough with the results that he kept the Daemonculaba working until the entire operation was destroyed.
- GURPS Bio-Tech describes such a device, called a "growth tank", and it's the most straightforward way to grow cloned or genetically engineered humans or animals, or simply to grow babies when a natural pregnancy is impossible. Depending on the setting, growth tanks may also accelerate the fetus' gestation, though it's not always the case.
- The Nazis are working on creating these on Mercury in Rocket Age The Metisians have also been using cloning for reproduction for years, possibly even centuries..
- In Dead Space, the second level, Isaac is in a room full of these. Apparently, they're being grown for the purpose of harvesting limbs for mining-accident victims aboard the Ishimura. Some of them have been infected by The Virus and become Lurkers.
- Though we never see this machine, a key part of BioShock's backstory involves taking a fertilized egg from a woman and placing it in an artificial womb, then aging it up to an adult in a little under two months. That baby is Jack Ryan, the player character.
- Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller has the Fecund 5088 birthing unit, a bald female cybernetic head and torso. She proudly offers her prenatal charges "soothing sounds and music," "comforting visual displays," and "direct projection of parents' voices into fetal chamber." She's also "programmed to respond to doubts you may have about the moral dilemmas some find inherent in [her] existence."
- Star Wars: Republic Commando Opens with the player character floating inside of one used to grow clones.
- The Mike clones from Battleborn are all grown from within vats and come out as fully adult soldiers ready to be quickly trained and then deployed into battle.
- Ultra Fast Pony uses this as a punchline in the episode "Making Babies": babies are created via magic because there aren't enough males around to make them the old-fashioned way. Also, sex was "messy and painful..."
- In El Goonish Shive, eggs created by Uryuoms have the ability to function as this except it works with raw DNA instead of sperm or embryos. And by "raw DNA" we mean "any DNA."
- Ectobiology in Homestuck can be used to spontaneously create infantile life from DNA. This is how all players of Sburb are "born", as they are not genetically related to their actual species. And when a code lurking in some of the players' subconscious is inputted, it creates a First Guardian. This never is particularly drawn attention to, and is merely treated as another form of Alchemy.
- Ectobiology is somewhat unusual in that it does not require "donors," as it works by Stable Time Loop: it takes its DNA sample from the "ghost slime" created when trying to Appearify something whose destiny was not to have been Appearified away from that location and time. In fact, it's implied that the DNA sample in question will always contain serious mutations unless the targeted entity has going to have been cloned from that DNA sample. It also skips the incubation step entirely and just spits out fully-formed young of the species that it was fed, and apparently is also capable of combining the DNA of things that don't have DNA.
- Dr. Edward "Bunni" Bunnigus from Schlock Mercenary was, as explained in this strip, brought to term in one for parents who by law were prohibited from reproducing naturally due to the fact that they had, in her words, "maybe 110 uncontested IQ points between them." It's later established that most human (and other naturally in-vivo species) births are done this way simply out of convenience and efficiency, although Designer Babies are still relatively rare.
- In Drowtales, the Val'Jaal'darya created these as part of their research into Homosexual Reproduction. They achieved this through the creation of golems who can carry children to term. A story about the clan has the first versions being made out of one of the potential mother's limbsnote making what's essentially a clone of the mother in the process, but later versions could use the mother's blood for the same purpose. The character of Kalki was carried to term this way, and one of the golems can be seen on the right in the first panel of the clan's profile page.
- A non-dystopian version in Times Like This, the human incubator was invented in the 2040's and scientists figured out how to safely extract the fetus to finish gestation in said replicator by the time it was marketed in 2055. After becoming affordable, this spawned a new sexual revolution and woman's liberation.
- Umlaut House: Word of God says that this is how Rhonda was brought to term.
- Whateley Universe: Bio-Devisors have used this technique since before World War II, and clones can be aged to adulthood rapidly, but forced maturation leads to a high chance of protein antagonism - any traumatic damage can kill most such clones. The major exceptions to date are Belphoebe (who is a high-level regenerator and was subjected to a tool that reduced the effect while being grown) and the first generation Animen (though no is entirely sure what Dr DNA did when creating them).
- Exo Squad has an interesting reversal. While humans are born naturally, the Genetically-engineered Neosapiens are artificially grown by the "brood." At the end of the series, one of the Neosapiens, Marsala, lobbies with the government to allow the creation of one final brood that's capable of natural breeding.
- In Rick and Morty female Gazorpians use a combination Uterine Replicator/Sexbot to go and "mate" with the male Gazorpians and then give birth to babies, since the females don't want to do either.
- On Invader Zim Irken "smeets" are apparently all born this way, though the reasons and implications of this are never really explored. Zim apparently considers the robotic arm that activated him his parent, though. ("I love you, cold, unfeeling robot arm!")
- According to the script for one of the cancelled episodes, an Irken's personality is stored in his PAK, the backpack-like contraptions they carry, which can be removed.
- In Gargoyles, the gargoyle clones created by Dr. Anton Sevarius are grown in these, which gets around the unavailability of female gargoyles (though he's got no qualms about imprisoning and using one) and allows him to both make them grow faster and "program" them with subliminal messages.
- At the time of writing (November 2014), no method exists for human beings, however, versions for goat fetuses exist. Although they are in an alpha version.