Possible effects on fertility
Unfortunately, some chemotherapy medication can cause infertility. Infertility is the inability to become pregnant or have children. This may be temporary or permanent depending on the treatment you receive.
It is important to discuss the risk of infertility with your oncologist before starting chemotherapy. If you have a partner, it is a good idea to include them in this discussion.
Although chemotherapy can affect fertility, it is possible for a woman to get pregnant or for a man to impregnate a woman while undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It is important to avoid pregnancy while having chemotherapy, as during treatment the drug could harm a developing baby.
How chemotherapy medication affects fertility
Some chemotherapy medications can temporarily or permanently halt the production of eggs by the ovaries.
Chemotherapy can cause menstruation to become irregular or stop for a while (temporary infertility). But after the treatment has come to an end, the ovaries can start producing eggs again and your periods will go back to normal. It may take a couple of months or up to two years for this to happen. The younger you are, the more likely you are to have your period again and continue being fertile after chemotherapy.
If your period does not come back, you will not be able to be pregnant and will enter menopause.
Before beginning chemotherapy, it is important to know if your ability to have children will be affected. You can then decide if you want to be referred to a fertility specialist. You can discuss the possible options to help preserve your fertility, such as storing embryos (fertilized eggs) or eggs.
Some chemotherapy medications have no effect on fertility, though others may cause sperm production to slow or stop. For most men, this is a temporary situation. Any problems producing sperm will not keep you from getting an erection or enjoying sex.
Even if your chances of becoming infertile are low, you may still be advised to store sperm for future use. This has to be done before beginning chemotherapy. If possible, adolescents at risk of infertility should also have their sperm stored for later years.
Normally, you'll be asked to produce several sperm samples over one or two weeks. These will be frozen and stored so that they can be used later to try to fertilize an egg and impregnate your partner.
It can take a couple of years for your sperm to get back to normal after chemotherapy. Unfortunately, infertility is permanent in some men. Your doctor can check your sperm after the treatment has finished.