Cancer survivors undoubtedly experience quite the cathartic moment upon realizing that they have, in fact, beaten this deadly disease but then begin pondering the days, weeks, months and years to follow, and just exactly where their journey will take them.
Inevitably, for women, the topic turns to the prospect of pregnancy and, ultimately, whether carrying a child after having cancer is safe.
The easy answer to this dilemma is a long, passionate and private discussion with your oncology doctor. Your physician can answer questions much more specifically in regard to your cancer, the subsequent treatment that was used to eradicate the disease and exactly what research has told them regarding cancer and how it affects fertility and safely giving birth.
Typically, the general rule of thumb for women is a two to five year waiting period after being declared cancer free to pursue pregnancy, but that time period depends on the type of cancer you had or how aggressive the treatment was. Men are generally advised to wait within that same time period of roughly two years as well.
Younger females diagnosed with cancer might be more inclined to stop ovulation before radiation or chemotherapy treatment culminates, thus preserving the eggs and increasing the chances of having a child once you’re cancer free.
Thoughts at some point will turn to whether or not carrying a child is safe for the female or what risks may or may not occur during childbirth. Generally speaking, birth defects aren’t any greater for females that have had chemotherapy or radiation, and the same can be said for the most part with miscarriages. Another misnomer that permeates through the offices of obstetricians and oncologists is the fear that parents who had cancer have a great risk of passing it on to their kids. Again, the research to support that isn’t founded.
Eventually, the talk turns back to the woman carrying the child.
Most oncologists will advise females on the health risks before, during and after treatment if pregnancy is a topic on the table. Treatments for cancer can weaken the entire body and the strain of a carrying a child for nine months often deters women traveling down that path. It’s paramount, however, to fully understand if the type of cancer you had will put you at a greater risk for complications, and only your doctor can give you the best possible advice moving forward.
What is most important is embracing the idea that between you, your significant other and your doctors, pregnancy isn’t quite as frightening or impossible as you may believe it to be.