"In the year 6565 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"
A 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 Mr. Seahorse
. It can even be simply a case of a Truly Single Parent
with an "interesting" outlook not wanting to "pollute" his/her child (often a Designer Baby
) by exposure to the "flawed" environment of a natural/organic womb.
Aside from the benefits described above, such devices are 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
and claims exclusive rights to growing children, who are then brainwashed into accepting the government's official ideology and their place in society without question from birth (or even from conception). If the child is also genetically engineered
, see Designer Babies
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Anime & Manga
- In Osamu Tezuka's Apollos 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 lifecycle 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.
- 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.
- 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 again, though.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The "uterine replicators" of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, 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) 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 (part of the Vorkosigan Saga by the same author, but Vorkosigan does not appear in the novel), 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.
- Also, 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.
- 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 try to reproduce this way, only to find the fetus only takes fully and grows when conceived the old-fashioned way.
- 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.
- 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.)
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 Star Gate 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 1'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."
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.