In vitro fertilization is an artificial means of combining an egg (or several) with sperm cells, attempting to obtain a viable embryo that will be deposited in the mother’s womb. The procedure is chosen by couples that have a fertility problem or a disease that may interfere with the fertilization process. Cancer patients often ask whether the chemotherapy will affect their fertility. Chemo drugs may affect fertility and may result in the patient’s inability to become pregnant; however, in many cases, the effects of the treatment are only temporary and the patient will be able to conceive. The patient should be aware of the effects of the treatment and make all the needed arrangements if she plans to have a baby after the therapy.
Chemotherapy is prescribed for patients that have been diagnosed with cancer. The purpose of the chemotherapy is to suppress the development of the malignant cells in the body and prevent the occurrence of new ones. If the patient wants to try to conceive, tests will be performed to establish if the treatment has affected the reproductive system and to see if any assisted reproductive technologies are possible.
IVF after Chemotherapy
The in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be performed after chemotherapy. However, the patient has to meet certain criteria that include:
- Age should be under 42
- Should have stopped the chemo treatment over one year before the IVF treatment--this time is necessary for the body to recover
- Should have healthy ovaries, fallopian tubes and reproductive system
- Have regular menses
- Have normal levels of FSH, LH and estadiol
If the patient has received radiation treatment under the diaphragm or in the reproductive system area, she may not be able to produce healthy ovules or may fail to carry a pregnancy to term. Each patient will be examined and the fertility doctor will establish if she qualifies for IVF.
Success Rates of IVF after Chemotherapy
The success rates of IVF after chemotherapy depend on various factors such as the patient’s health and age. However, pregnancies are possible following an IVF procedure that is performed after a chemotherapy treatment.
Alternative Means of Conceiving
Chemotherapy may or may not affect fertility and for this reason, the patient will have to discuss her options with the oncologist as well as with the fertility doctor. If the patient intends to get pregnant after the treatment, she should be aware that her ovaries and their ability to produce ovules may be affected by the treatment.
Fertility preservation methods, such as freezing ovules, can be an alternative for patients who know they will undergo chemotherapy. Preserving some viable eggs before the administration of chemo drugs will increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
The method is mostly recommended in patients that don’t qualify for IVF after the use of chemotherapy, such as patients that will receive radiation treatment in the abdominal or reproductive system region.