Coping with infertility

Some chemotherapy drugs cause infertility. This means that you can't have children. It may be temporary or permanent, depending on the drugs you have, your age and other factors.

Many people go on to have healthy children after chemotherapy. But some chemotherapy drugs can cause permanent infertility, especially in high doses.

It’s important to discuss the risk of infertility with your doctor before you start your treatment. Sometimes it’s possible for your doctor to suggest treatment that is less likely to cause infertility.

If you have a partner, they'll probably want to join in the discussion. Then you can both learn all the facts. It's also a chance to talk over your feelings and choices for the future.

Your feelings about infertility

It can be very difficult to learn that you might no longer be able to have children. But people might react in different ways:

  • It can feel devastating if you wanted to have a child, or wanted more children.
  • Some people are able to accept it and feel that beating cancer is more important.
  • Others seem to accept the news calmly when they start treatment, but find it hits them later when the treatment is over.

It’s normal for people to feel anxious, afraid or depressed about how cancer and its treatment has affected their lives. It can help to know that you're not alone. Most people have felt like you at some time during their treatment. Like them, you can overcome feeling afraid or discouraged.

Not being able to have children might make you feel like you have lost a part of yourself and are less masculine or less feminine. You may be very sad or angry that the drugs have changed your body. Your self confidence can drop.

Getting help and support

It can help to talk to a close friend or relative. Or you may prefer to talk to someone outside your circle of family and friends.

Ask your chemotherapy nurse about available counselling and support groups. Speaking with people who understand and have gone through similar things can be a great comfort. You can also look in our counselling section for information about finding a counsellor.

You and your partner may want to speak to a therapist or counsellor specialising in fertility problems. Ask your doctor or cancer nurse about this.

You may also find some of the books in our general reading list useful. Some are written by patients who have coped with infertility. They can give you support and ideas to help you come to terms with infertility and other problems caused by chemotherapy. 

Other support

Cancer, Fertility and Me is a website for women with cancer who are having treatment that may affect their fertility and chances of becoming pregnant in the future. 

It is written by fertility doctors, specialist nurses, psychologists and other professionals.

It aims to help women think about the treatments which may help to preserve their fertility. It also aims to help women prepare to talk with their healthcare professionals, partner, family and friends about fertility preservation before cancer treatment starts. 

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