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Docyard | You can have a baby after cancer
Cancer is no longer a rare disease that only affects other people. Today we see cancer in our homes. Cancer spares no one and you can never be sure just when some cells of your body will grow out of control and become cancerous.
The treatment invariably causes great damage in the way of side effects. The chemo therapy affects every area of the body and doesn't even spare fertility. The residue of the effects of the chemo remain long after you have stopped treatment and continue to cause extensive damage to your body especially your internal organs including reproductive organs.
Pregnancy after recovering from any type of cancer can be unnerving. Many cancer patients fear that their unborn child may contact the illness while in the uterus. This thought can be very frightening. It is enough to give expecting mother nightmares.
Doctors advise patients to keep a gap of at least two years before planning a baby to avoid any ill effects of the strong cancer treatment drugs on the baby. Doctors are mainly worried about deformities and malformation abnormalities that could occur in the foetus.
If the cancer patient is young and does not have children yet or is planning for a delayed parenthood, the doctors usually advise fertility preservation before beginning the chemo therapy. Fertility preservation is a process whereby the mature eggs are extracted from the ovaries and frozen for future use. It is a wonderful method to preserve fertility not just in the case of cancer but for women who plan to have children later, but are getting on in age. Egg quality deteriorates as a woman ages, and egg preservation is a way to hold onto reproductive youth.
Chemotherapy and radiation can damage the eggs in the ovaries and since women do not produce any new eggs, the eggs will get permanently damaged. Trying to use your existing eggs from the ovaries after chemotherapy could risk leading to serious birth defects in the baby.
Egg freezing eliminates the chances of the baby being affected by the radiation or chemo medication. Generally eggs can be frozen for a period up to 10 years.
Cancer can also severely hamper male fertility, especially if the radiation was near the testicular area. It can cause irreversible damage to the Spermatogonia, which are the sperm producing cells. Men are advised to freeze their sperms for future use. This is just in case of any permanent damage to the sperm production organs.
Similar to egg freezing sperms can also be frozen for a period up to 10 years. These sperm can be used any time for fertilising the egg of the female partner and there is no need to wait for the cancer treatment to finish.
If a couple wish to have a baby while the female partner is undergoing cancer treatment they can opt for a surrogate mother. Surrogacy is also an alternate option if the uterus is damaged or removed due to the cancer treatment. Cancer can also affect the uterus or ovaries. Uterine cancer is quite common in women and requires the uterus to be removed and sometimes even the ovaries are removed if the cancer has spread to the ovaries.
In cases where the eggs have been frozen, a woman can still hope to have her own child through surrogacy. Today surrogacy is quite common and healthy surrogate mothers can easily be arranged by fertility clinics. The surrogate mother has no genetic connection to the baby and also has no legal claim to the baby. So parents can rest their fears regarding surrogacy.
Even though cancer is a dreadful disease and it can take the best out of you. When it comes to fertility there are still various options to have a baby.
Dr Sweta Gupta Director and senior consultant — Fertility Solutions Medicover Fertility, New Delhi
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