Pregnancy After Chemotherapy: What Are Your Options

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a couple who underwent ivf for getting pregnant after chemotherapy

Pregnancy after chemotherapy is possible and safe for both the mother and the baby. However, some women may be told to wait a certain period of time before trying to have a baby. We know the family building process is an important aspect of everyone’s life.

And we understand that you might wonder whether you will be able to have children after you’ve undergone cancer treatment. If you want to become a parent, learning about your options on how to preserve your fertility before treatment, and start or grow your family after the treatment will make a huge difference in your future plans. Remember, there is always a solution to a challenging situation in your life. With this blog post, we hope we will answer all the questions you might have about your fertility pre- and post-chemotherapy.

How Does Cancer Affect Fertility

Cancer itself can reduce fertility if the reproductive organs, such as the testicles, are affected. In other cases, infertility may be caused indirectly by some types of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that destroys dividing cells throughout the body. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, focuses on destroying cells only in specific areas. These cancer treatments can lead to infertility if the target area is the brain (areas that control hormone production). Radiation therapy including the pelvic area of the body can also cause infertility due to damage of the reproductive organs. Sometimes, cancer patients undergo a surgery where part or all of the reproductive organs are removed.

Can Chemotherapy Make You Infertile

Some cancer treatments can reduce fertility, while others do not. The chances for pregnancy after chemotherapy will be determined by three factors: age, the dosage of cancer drugs and type of treatment. Some people might experience temporary infertility while others may become permanently infertile. Whatever the outcome, having a consultation with a fertility specialist can help overcome the problem of treatment-induced infertility.

Changes in your fertility may occur during and following cancer treatment. Possible symptoms of treatment-induced infertility are:

  • Early or premature menopause (menopause before the age of 40/45)
  • Fertility issues in both men and women
  • Damage to the genetic material (DNA) of the fetus

What is Infertility

Infertility refers to the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying to conceive naturally without success. Women are diagnosed with infertility if:

  • They are unable to produce good-quality eggs
  • They have damaged reproductive organs that prevent eggs from being fertilized
  • They cannot conceive due to implantation failure

Chemotherapy Drugs that Cause Infertility

Certain chemotherapy drugs may put you at risk of losing your fertility. These drugs are potent and can damage a woman’s eggs. The extent to which this will happen depends on a woman’s age and the types of drugs you get. Before starting chemotherapy, you should talk to your doctor about the type and dosage of drugs you will get and the possible effects these will have on your fertility.

Chemotherapy and Fertility in Men

Chemotherapy and some cancer drugs can damage the testes. As a result, sperm issues such as reduced sperm production (low sperm count) or poor sperm motility (movement) can appear. Depending on the treated area(s) and chemotherapy drugs used during the treatment, some men will experience infertility while others may recover and resume producing viable sperm.

If infertility is likely to be a permanent side effect, you may want to freeze and store sperm for future conception. Before freezing your sperm, you will need to have a blood test for HIV antibodies, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. These tests are carried out to ensure healthy sperm.

You can try to have a child after cancer treatment. Our doctor will assess your fertility level and will determine if donor sperm is needed. Sperm donation in Cyprus is a wonderful option that gives many cancer patients the hope of starting a family and having a healthy child. We advise you to talk to our fertility specialist to determine what treatment plan might work best for you.

Fertility Testing for Men

To check your fertility following cancer treatment, our euroCARE IVF doctor will arrange fertility testing which includes:

  • Blood testing for HIV and Hepatitis B and C
  • Semen analysis to assess:
    • Sperm count (number of sperm cells)
    • Sperm shape (morphology)
    • Sperm motility (movement)

Your semen will be analyzed to determine if you are able to produce healthy, viable sperm. Sometimes, men who have temporarily lost their ability to produce quality sperm may recover and get their fertility back. However, if cancer has caused an irreversible effect on the sperm production system, don’t give up hope! Sperm can be collected using a surgical sperm retrieval method called Micro TESE. This is an alternative approach to collecting sperm in men who are infertile and have not cryopreserved sperm prior to cancer treatment. You can always opt out for IVF with donor sperm if the other options do not work for you.

Having a Baby after Cancer

Cancer can affect men’s fertility in many different ways, sometimes leaving them with limited options to father a child or shutting down their reproductive system. However, there are still ways you can take advantage of IVF technology to help you start a family. Treatment options include:

Sperm Freezing (Semen Cryopreservation)

Sperm freezing in Cyprus (also known as sperm banking or semen cryopreservation) is a method of preserving sperm cells before starting cancer treatment. A new emerging technology called vitrification allows sperm to be frozen at a much higher speed rate without damaging the cells. Cryopreserved sperm is then stored in a special facility for an indefinite period of time. 

When you feel ready to start a family, frozen sperm is thawed by slowly warming it to room temperature. Sperm cells are then assessed for quality and selected for the ICSI procedure. ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is a highly effective method that helps sperm fertilize the mature eggs. It works by injecting a single sperm cell into each mature egg using a pre-loaded micropipette. Sperm freezing is a great option for many cancer patients which ensures viable sperm for fertilization using IVF procedure.

IVF with ICSI in Cyprus

IVF (in vitro fertilization) in Cyprus is a type of fertility treatment that involves collecting and fertilizing eggs with sperm in laboratory setting. ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is the most effective method of fertilization used in IVF procedures in which single sperm cells are injected directly into each mature egg. Due to the high fertilization rates, ICSI is used routinely for all IVF treatments at the IVF clinic in North Cyprus.

In some cases, if the male partner is not able to provide any sample for fertilization, a surgical sperm retrieval procedure called Micro TESE is carried out. This technique is used only if men are producing viable sperm.

  • Micro TESE (Microdissection Testicular Sperm Extraction)

Micro TESE is a surgical sperm retrieval method that involves the removal of testicular tissue through a scrotal incision (testicular biopsy). This method involves extracting sperm from the seminiferous tubules that contain sperm.

Once the sperm has been obtained and the incision has been carefully closed, our technologist will examine the sample under a microscope to look for the presence of sperm. Sperm obtained this way requires using the ICSI method to fertilize the collected eggs during your IVF treatment in Cyprus.

Chemotherapy and Fertility in Women

Cancer patients may notice changes in their menstrual cycle once chemotherapy is over. If you are in your twenties or thirties, you may experience temporary infertility. But if you are in your forties, your period may stop completely and menopause may start as a result. If you are interested in preserving your fertility, talk to our euroCARE IVF fertility specialist to explore all available options prior to starting cancer treatment. Pregnancy after chemotherapy is also possible thanks to the advanced fertility care at our center. 

Fertility preservation in cancer patients

Possible ways to preserve fertility prior to chemotherapy are:

  • Egg freezing
  • Embryo freezing 

Egg Freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation) in Cyprus

Egg freezing in Cyprus is an ideal option for women who do not have a partner at the moment but are interested in starting a family later on. The egg freezing procedure is very similar to the one for IVF. Our euroCARE IVF fertility doctor will prescribe fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When ready, the doctor will collect eggs using ultrasound-guided aspiration. After egg retrieval, eggs will be cryopreserved and stored until you decide to use them in an IVF cycle. Pregnancy after chemotherapy is easily achieved when frozen eggs are thawed and fertilized with your partner’s or donor’s sperm. On day three or day five after egg retrieval, fertilized eggs (embryos) will be transferred to your uterus. Twelve days after the embryo transfer, a beta HCG test is performed to check if pregnancy has occurred.

Embryo Freezing (Embryo Cryopreservation) in Cyprus

Embryo freezing in Cyprus is another possibility for women to preserve their fertility and have a baby at a later date. Fertility drugs are administered for 10 to 12 days to stimulate the woman’s ovaries to produce eggs. Mature eggs are then collected and fertilized using the partner’s sperm in order to create embryos for implantation. Good-quality embryos are then frozen and stored in a special facility.  When you and your partner are ready to have a baby, frozen embryos are thawed and transferred to the already prepared uterus. 

Pregnancy after chemotherapy

Pregnancy after chemotherapy is possible and generally safe for both the mother and the baby. In some cases, patients need to wait for a specific period of time before attempting pregnancy. The length of waiting time will depend on a few factors including:

  • Type and stage of cancer
  • Type of treatment and medication used
  • Woman’s age

Women who underwent chemotherapy should not get pregnant in the first 6 months after finishing cancer treatment.

Pregnancy and chemotherapy

  • Women should not get pregnant while being on chemo. The treatment itself and many chemo drugs can harm the fetus, leading to high-risk pregnancy and birth defects. At this point, it’s essential to use contraception to prevent pregnancy.
  • While generally pregnancy after chemotherapy is safe, it is recommended that you should wait some period of time before trying to conceive. Women are often advised to avoid getting pregnant within the first 6 months once chemotherapy is over. Talk to your doctor about the perfect time when you should start fertility treatment.

Pregnancy after chemo-induced menopause

Chemotherapy may induce temporary menopause. Menstruation cycles may stop while you are having chemotherapy, and once it is over you may start having your periods again. It takes a few months or more than a year to restore fertility. It is important to keep in mind that even after ovulation is back, pregnancy is not guaranteed. This is because fertility may not be a hundred percent restored. In this case, using donor eggs may be advised to help you conceive as part of IVF. Consult with our fertility expert to discuss possible treatment options.

IVF after Chemotherapy

There are other options you can consider if cancer has impacted your fertility in a way that prevents you from getting pregnant with your own eggs. Some possible IVF treatment options in this case are:

  • Egg donation
  • Embryo donation 

Fertility Testing for Women

If you consider having a baby after cancer treatment, our fertility specialist at euroCARE IVF can help you choose the best treatment plan. First, we need to check your ovarian reserve (egg supply) and make sure your ovaries are not damaged. This includes blood tests that measure the levels of reproductive hormones such as AMH (anti-mullerian hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), prolactin, estradiol, and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) along with an ultrasound scan to assess your ovarian reserve. The results of the tests will indicate the level of fertility. It’s a good idea to have your hormones checked at least three to six months after chemotherapy so we can get a more precise picture of the hormonal state in your body.

Egg Donation in Cyprus

euroCARE IVF offers egg donation program for patients who are unable to conceive using their own eggs. Egg donation in Cyprus is a type of third-party assisted reproduction that involves collecting eggs from a donor and fertilizing them with sperm in order to create embryos. Donors are young women aged between 21 and 28 who have passed an extensive screening process. This process includes medical, fertility and genetic testing to ensure a successful pregnancy and healthy child.

After the initial consultation, both the recipient(s) and the donor start an IVF cycle. The donor undergoes ovarian stimulation that will help her produce more eggs. The mature eggs are then collected in a simple egg retrieval procedure. Next, the eggs are fertilized using an ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) method. Depending on the stage of development, embryo quality and patient’s age, embryo transfer may be performed on day three or day five after the egg retrieval. The transfer of embryos on day five after fertilization is called blastocyst transfer. The remaining embryos can be frozen (embryo cryopreservation) and stored for future IVF cycles. Egg donation in Cyprus gives you high prospects for pregnancy after chemotherapy.

Embryo Donation in Cyprus

Following an appointment with our euroCARE IVF fertility specialist, you will have fertility blood tests. Next, you will be prescribed medication to synchronize your cycle with one of the egg donor. While the donor is taking fertility drugs to stimulate the production of multiple eggs, you will be administered medication to prepare your uterus for implantation. Once the donor’s eggs become fully mature, an egg retrieval procedure is scheduled at our IVF clinic in North Cyprus.

Frozen donor sperm will be obtained from a sperm bank well ahead of the day of fertilization. An ICSI procedure is performed to facilitate egg fertilization. Embryos are then graded for quality and the best ones are selected on the transfer day. Any extra good-quality embryos can be frozen (embryo cryopreservation) and used in the future. Embryo donation in Cyprus is another highly successful treatment that is very likely to result in pregnancy after chemotherapy thanks to the high-quality eggs and sperm.

Chances of getting pregnant after chemotherapy

There are multiple factors that will affect your chances for pregnancy after chemotherapy including:

  • Age. The ovarian reserve (number of eggs in your ovaries) is affected by your age. If you have a good ovarian reserve, then part of your eggs will remain intact during chemotherapy. Those who have lost the ability to produce good-quality eggs, egg donation is always an option for you to experience the joy of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Cancer treatment. Not every cancer treatment will have the same effect on fertility. While some treatments may only cause temporary infertility, others may have a long-lasting side effect on the endocrinological system. However, there are effective ways you can preserve your fertility or achieve a successful pregnancy through alternative techniques such as IVF.
  • Chemo drugs. Some types of chemo drugs minimize the risk of infertility. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and the euroCARE IVF fertility expert to assess the potential risks of the drugs used during your treatment for cancer and your treatment options for building a family.
  • Fertility treatment. Depending on the effect that chemo had on your fertility, there are a few treatment options that our doctor will recommend to you including Egg or embryo Freezing and Egg or embryo Donation.

IVF for cancer patients at euroCARE IVF

There are so many treatment options available at the euroCARE IVF clinic in North Cyprus that make pregnancy possible after chemotherapy. If sperm, eggs or embryos were previously cryopreserved, then you may want to use them at a later date. Cryopreservation is safe and there are no risks for the child. If cancer treatment has made you permanently infertile and you haven’t stored any sperm, eggs or embryos, IVF using donor eggs, sperm or embryos may be advised. Contact our euroCARE IVF fertility experts to get more information about the available treatemnt options for cancer patients.

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