Dealing with infertility following cancer treatment

02 Oct 2019 by Krystal Barter
Dealing with infertility following cancer treatment

While some women explore fertility options prior to the commencement of cancer treatments, others do not have the opportunity to do so and look to IVF as an option following their cancer treatment. However, due to the impact of this on fertility, it’s important to note that the chance of success is lower.

Egg donation

If having a baby is not possible, even following fertility treatment, egg and embryo donation is an option you may want to consider, using eggs donated from another woman.

The egg donor also undergoes the IVF process explored earlier and the egg is then fertilised with your partner’s sperm and implanted into your womb. While children born as a result of this method would not be genetically related to you, you would be the birth mother.

The egg donor could be known to you or remain unidentified and would generally be under the age of 35 and have completed their own family. Egg donation is no longer anonymous in Australia, which means the child born will have the right to contact them after the age of 18 years.

To prepare your own womb to support the pregnancy, you will be given hormones.

Embryo donation

Embryo donation involves receiving a donated embryo (fertilised and mature egg) from another couple. These are generally donated from another couple who have also been through the IVF process and are willing to donate their excess embryos.

Similar to the egg donation process, you will be given hormones to prepare your womb for the embryo. While the child born from a donated embryo is not genetically yours, you would be the birth mother.

What are the complications of egg or embryo donation?

While egg and embryo donation are fantastic options for women unable to conceive naturally or using IVF after cancer treatment, and do not require delaying the start of cancer treatment, there are significant costs involved, as you may need to cover the cost of the IVF cycle for the egg donor.

The hormone treatments used to prepare the womb for the mature embryo are not as high as those prescribed for traditional IVF treatment, however it is uncertain whether it is safe to use these hormones following breast cancer.

It is best to discuss this with your oncologist and medical team.

There are also a lot of important psychological, legal and practical issues that need to be considered before choosing either of these options. It is advised that a woman undergo careful consideration and counselling in order to make an informed decision. IVF clinics can assist you with the counselling and help navigate the legal framework involved.


Surrogacy is an option if you do not wish to or cannot carry a child in your womb or are unable to due to your particular cancer or reconstruction outcomes.

In this process, eggs are collected and fertilised through IVF. In this method however, the embryo is placed in the surrogate’s womb, rather than your own.

The child is genetically related to the couple and does not biologically belong to the surrogate. Surrogacy laws in Australia vary from state to state. Check with your local IVF clinic or legal advisor for the current surrogacy legislation in your state or territory.


Adoption is a legal process that creates a parent-child relationship between people who are not blood related. The adopted child has all the rights of a child who was born naturally to the adoptive parents. However, it is important to note that adoption can be a difficult, lengthy and costly process and varies significantly between states and territories.

People who have a history of cancer are not necessarily excluded from adoption, however the criteria may vary between states and countries, so it is best to explore this based on your geographical location.

All applicants must declare their health status, and agencies may talk about your health in detail with your doctors to determine the risk of the cancer coming back, and how this may impact upon your ability to look after a child long-term.

For more information about adoption, visit the family and community service government website in your state or territory. For a guide to overseas adoption, visit the Australian Government’s website at intercountryadoption.gov.au or call 1800 197 760.

This content is brought to you in partnership with Conceive Please. 


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