Patient Resources

How Chemotherapy Can Affect Therapy in Women

Cancer, or more often cancer treatments, can interfere with some parts of your body’s processes and affect your ability to have children. Different types of treatments can have different effects. Talk with your doctor about fertility before treatment, as there may be ways to save or protect your fertility before and perhaps during treatment. Options are often limited after treatment.

A few things must be considered when trying to preserve fertility in women with cancer:

  • If the cancer has spread or whether a woman has a high risk of getting cancer in these organs in the future
  • If it is risky to delay starting cancer treatment, as some options to preserve fertility may take too much time when the cancer is fast-growing
    Chances of success, due to the fact that most fertility procedures are less successful in women over 40

Parenthood after cancer is still possible, although it may not happen the way you originally planned. You may have the options of freezing eggs, infertility treatment after cancer, or using donated eggs, among other options.

How can chemotherapy affect fertility in women?


The younger you are, the more eggs you usually have in your ovaries. This gives you a higher chance to keep some fertility even after treatment. Women treated for cancer before age 35 have the highest chance of getting pregnant after treatment.

Fertility May Not Last As Long

Girls who had chemo before puberty, or young women whose menstrual periods begin again after chemo, are at risk for early menopause. When a woman’s periods cease before age 40, which is long before the average age of about 51, it is considered premature ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency. This causes infertility because her ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone.

Avoid Pregnancy During Chemo

Chemo drugs can hurt a developing fetus, causing birth defects or other harm. Use effective birth control because you may still be fertile during some types of chemo. Some women can get pregnant even when their periods have stopped.

Pregnancy Too Soon After Chemo May Harm Baby

Within the first 6 months after chemo, women are advised not to get pregnant. The medicine may have damaged the eggs that were maturing during treatment. If one of these damaged eggs is fertilized, the embryo could miscarry or develop a genetic problem.


The North Carolina Center for Reproductive Medicine (NCCRM) is the premiere center for reproductive health in North Carolina and the East Coast. It was established in 1992 to provide advanced reproductive techniques to couples who dream of having a child of their own. Our team specializes in fertility testing, diagnosis and treatment of infertility conditions. We’re experts in IVF, Tubal Ligation Reversal, Male Infertility, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Gestation Surrogacy, Family Balancing and more.

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