The process of stem cell transplant can be stressing out both mentally and physically. Only those who have undergone the same can understand the trauma. A lot of women get cured through stem cell transplantation or SCT, which treats diseases like leukaemia. However, one of the long term consequences of this therapy is infertility.
Alkylating agents are used in SCT along with irradiation. This leads to permanent injury of the germ cells that cause infertility. This results in psychological stress and high depression rates for both partners. If the trauma of SCT wasn’t enough, simply the waiting and apprehension of whether or not you can experience the joys of motherhood takes a toll on your emotional health.
Can You Get Pregnant After SCT?
Yes there is a reason to smile because there is hope! It is possible for you to get pregnant after this procedure. But keep in mind, the success rate of the pregnancy depends on crucial factors like-
- The extent or dosage of chemotherapy and radiation is a determining factor here. The higher the number of cycles done during the treatment, the higher are chances of infertility.
- Your age during the time of SCT influences fertility conditions too. It has been seen that women who are above 30-35 years of age have a lower chance of conceiving. The ticking of the biological clock along with hormonal and other internal changes experienced during chemo takes a toll on the reproductive system.
- The type of cancer you had too influences the chances of fertility. In case of women with ovarian or uterine cancer there is not much hope for conceiving. But women who had breast cancer or other forms of cancer are better off because this cancer doesn’t affect the reproductive system directly.
You should also be aware that there are risks of conceiving after stem cell transplant that include premature or low weight birth for the baby. Abnormalities in the child due to damage to the uterus. Radiation in spine and abdomen region means risk of miscarriage. Risk for the mother as some drugs like doxorubicin and daunorubicin cause heart problems
Ways To Get Pregnant After SCT
In spite of some hindrances, there are plenty of options to help you conceive and carry your little bundle of joy. Here are some ways through which you can plan a pregnancy and have a biological child even after stem transplant-
Spontaneous Or Natural Conception
If the mother is young and has not been given very high doses of chemo, then the chances of conceiving naturally are very high. This is usually seen in cases where cancer is detected at an early stage. It is especially true in some forms of cancer like breast cancer, where the organ is removed to prevent further spread, and the requirement of chemotherapy and radiation is minimal.
Though some people do opt for adoption, most women want to experience the joy of pregnancy. One option here is vitro fertilisation. In this process the embryo is implanted inside the womb of the woman to help her get pregnant. Though the success rate is not very hight, there are many transplant survivors who were able to conceive through this medium. Usually the eggs of the woman are frozen prior to SCT, but not fertilised with the male sperm.
In this experimental method, ovarian tissues are removed from the SCT patient using a minor outpatient surgical procedure. These tissues are frozen and then implanted into the woman’s ovary, post the SCT. and then frozen. As a result, the ovary is able to produce eggs again.
It is heartbreaking to hear that you may not be able to conceive after traumatic therapies like stem cell transplant. But do consult with a fertility expert to consider your options. If you are about to begin SCT and are hoping to conceive post the therapy, talk to your physician about freezing eggs or saving ovarian tissue.