Thinking about becoming a parent
The decision to try for a baby is a big one for anyone to make. If you’ve had cancer, this brings its own extra challenges.
When is it okay to start a family?
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It’s strongly recommended that you avoid getting pregnant or becoming a father during cancer treatment. Some people become temporarily infertile during treatment. Other people may still be fertile but their eggs or sperm can be temporarily damaged. Most doctors advise waiting at least 12 months after your treatment has stopped before trying to become pregnant or father a child. You can discuss this with your cancer doctor or specialist nurse. During your cancer treatment, it‘s important to use contraception if you’re having sex.
If you’re planning to have a child, you’ll need to think about your general health and well-being, and how well you’ve recovered from cancer. If you finished treatment recently or you still have ongoing problems, your GP or cancer doctor can give you advice about when it may be best for you to try to have a baby.
Some women are told that treatment may cause an earlier menopause. In this case, you may want to start trying to have a family before your mid-30s, in case you have the menopause early.
It’s always strongly recommended to avoid becoming pregnant or becoming a father during treatment for cancer. Some people become temporarily infertile during treatment. Other people may still be fertile but their eggs or sperm can be temporarily damaged. A pregnancy from damaged eggs or sperm could mean there’s a chance of the baby not developing normally. Most doctors advise waiting 18 months after your treatment has stopped before trying to become pregnant or father a child. You can discuss this with your cancer doctor or specialist nurse. During the time of your cancer treatment, it‘s important to use effective contraception if you’re sexually active.
Common questions about pregnancy
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For women, does pregnancy make the cancer more likely
to come back?
Research suggests that pregnancy does not make childhood or teenage cancers more likely to come back.
What can I do if I’m worried about becoming a parent and my cancer coming back?
This is a very understandable worry. It can be very difficult if you have a young child and become seriously ill. You may decide to wait for a few years after your treatment has ended before trying to start a family. Your cancer doctor can advise you on a good amount of time to wait.
Can I pass cancer on to my children?
There has been a lot of research done into this question. Most children whose parent(s) had cancer at a young age are at no greater risk of getting cancer themselves.
In a very small number of families, there is a faulty gene that increases the risk of certain types of cancer. Your doctors will tell you if it’s possible that you have a faulty gene that could be passed on to your children. They can arrange for you to see a specialist if needed.
Can women who’ve had cancer breastfeed their baby?
After cancer treatment, most women should be able to breastfeed if they want to. Breastfeeding does not make the cancer more likely to come back.
Women who’ve had radiotherapy to the chest area may not produce enough milk. They may need to bottle-feed their baby.
A hormone produced in the brain controls breast milk production. Treatment for some brain tumours can reduce the level of this hormone. This may mean you can’t produce enough milk to breastfeed.
There are certain medicines that you shouldn’t take if you’re breastfeeding. If you have any questions about cancer and breastfeeding, you can talk to your cancer doctor, obstetrician or midwife.
What help is available for parents who have disabilities due
to cancer or its treatment?
Social services departments can help parents with disabilities. They provide support and equipment. You might want to start by talking to the social worker in the hospital where you have your check-ups. Or you can go directly to your local social services department.
There are also other organisations that can support you. Many offer the chance to talk to and get support from other parents with disabilities.