If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it can be an incredibly trying time for you and your family. And if you’ve been trying to conceive at the time, it can be doubly heart-breaking.
Given that many forms of cancer are treatable by chemotherapy, doctors are often asked about potential fertility problems after having been exposed to radiation. This is a valid concern since some cancer treatments can affect the chances of conception in women and those of fathering a child, especially after chemotherapy
In fact, a lot depends on the type of cancer, the age and health of the woman, and the treatment specifics. Cancers of the reproductive system, like cervical and ovarian cancer, can result in irreversible fertility loss, while cancers in the abdomen can cause the heart to weaken, potentially complicating the birthing process.
The Effects Of Chemo On Fertility
- Egg Damage:
Some chemotherapy drugs can harm a woman’s eggs, but this depends on the dosage and the woman’s age as well as the drugs used. While some drugs are classified as highly damaging to the eggs, others have a lower risk of causing harm. Consult with your gynaecologist to find the best possible solution.
- Premature Menopause:
Many women cease menstruating during chemo, and only begin again months after the treatment is over. In some cases, older women will encounter premature menopause immediately or soon after chemotherapy. That’s why it’s an always a good idea to freeze your eggs at a fertility bank, before undergoing treatment. In this way, pregnancy after chemo-induced menopause may still be possible via IVF procedures.
Although younger women may not face this problem, egg-freezing is still a good idea since you can never be certain what complications will arise.
Sometimes, the medication that you have to take post-treatment, can prevent conception. In this cases, the medication may have to stop before you can conceive again, but if taken too early, such a step could raise the chances of cancer returning. Consult with your doctor about the risks before you come to a decision.
- Precautions To Take
That said, in many cases, it’s perfectly possible to have a baby after chemotherapy, as long as you follow the right precautions.
– Don’t get pregnant right after treatment. Most doctors will recommend that you wait at least 6 months before you attempt to conceive again so that your body has had a chance to recover from the stress of therapy, while also flushing out any damaged eggs. Some doctors even suggest you wait 2-5 years since it reduces the chances of having to treat a potential cancer relapse while you are pregnant.
– If you have an active sex life, it’s important to stay on birth control immediately after treatment, since even a lack of regular menstrual cycles does not guarantee that you won’t get pregnant.
– Stay calm and try to fill your time with things you enjoy. Sometimes the stress of dealing with cancer can be extreme enough to cause a miscarriage.
– Freeze your eggs. In case of irreversible fertility damage, preserving your eggs could be the only viable way for you to get pregnant in the future.
Remember, every case is unique and any pregnancy planning should be extensively discussed with your cancer physician beforehand. You may have specific conditions or even have organ damage from radiation and drugs that inhibit pregnancy or make it unsafe.
But if they give you the go-ahead after a thorough examination, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to give birth after your cancer is safely treated.