Effects on your fertility
Not all chemotherapy drugs make you infertile. For those that do, infertility may be temporary or permanent, depending on the drugs, and the duration of the treatment. If fertility is important to you please discuss it with your doctor before you start treatment.
However, it is still possible to become pregnant or father a child during treatment. You must avoid pregnancy or fathering a child throughout treatment and for six months after your last treatment because the drugs are likely to affect the unborn baby.
Some drugs may affect your ovaries and stop production of eggs. This will make you infertile and may bring on symptoms associated with the menopause such as irregular or cessation of periods, hot flushes and dryness of your skin and vagina. Your doctor may be able to prescribe hormone tablets for you, to help reduce these symptoms. The hormones, however, will not make you fertile again.
You must avoid becoming pregnant during treatment and for six months after your last treatment because the drugs may affect the unborn baby. There are many effective methods of contraception and you should discuss them with your partner and if necessary your nurse or doctor.
If you are pregnant before your treatment starts, please tell your doctor. In rare situations, it may be possible to delay the treatment until the baby is born. This will depend on your pregnancy, your cancer, and the type of drugs you will receive. If you become pregnant during your treatment, please tell your doctor as soon as you know so that you are fully aware of the options available to you before you make any decisions.
If infertility is temporary, your periods will return to normal shortly after your treatment is complete. This happens in about a third of patients who are temporarily infertile.
Chemotherapy may reduce the number or quality of the sperm you produce and your ability to father children can be affected. If your family is not complete before you start treatment, it may be possible for you to bank your sperm. You can retrieve the sperm when you and your partner wish to have a baby. This, however, does not carry any guarantee of success. It is best that you and your partner discuss this with your doctor.
Theoretically chemotherapy drugs can damage sperm DNA which might lead to birth defects. As a result, we would advise you to use an effective method of contraception during and for three months following chemotherapy.
Some men will remain infertile permanently, whilst for others their sperm count returns to normal.
How you feel
We realise that many people feel that the chemotherapy may also mean that they can no longer have children, and that this feeling can be one of great sadness and loss. The sense of loss may be acute in people of all ages and by people who did not have any plans for children. You may feel that your role in the family is changing and that you have lost some of your femininity or masculinity, or that your self-esteem is low. Everybody reacts in different ways - there is no right or wrong way. It is important that you are able to discuss with your doctor or nurse how you feel and be fully informed and prepared of all your options before your treatment commences.
Sex and chemotherapy
There is no medical reason why you cannot continue with sexual relationships whilst having chemotherapy. However, some people find that some of the side effects such as tiredness, hair loss, and feeling sick may make you feel less attractive to your partner. Feelings such as anger, anxiety, or depression may also affect you.
Sexuality is much more than the act of intercourse. It is about your whole relationship with your partner. Many couples discover that talking about feelings and worries brings them closer together and helps them to cope better. If necessary, talk to your doctor or nurse about any specific difficulties you have.