Fertility and cervical cancer
Treatments for very early stage cervical cancer, such as cone biopsy and radical trachelectomy do not cause a loss of fertility. One woman we interviewed was able to have two children after her radical trachelectomy. Radiotherapy and hysterectomy will prevent women from conceiving or carrying a child of their own naturally. However, there are other options for having children, including preservation of eggs prior to treatment IVF, surrogacy and adoption.
Some older women, or those who had completed their families said they felt sad and a little upset when the option for having a child was final. Younger women who had not yet had children, or who wanted to have another child, found it very traumatic.
A few said that they were equally or more upset about losing their fertility than at being diagnosed with cancer. One recalls that at first she wanted to try for a baby before she had treatment. Another, who had two children, explains that others could not understand why she was so upset about losing her fertility when her treatment had been successful in removing her cancer.
She wanted to try for a baby before she had treatment.
And that was good because she was very blunt and it made me think I have to really, this isn't something that's just going to go away and I might become pregnant and I can have a pregnancy and then sort out the cancer. And she, it was really quite good for me for somebody just to be quite direct with me. Because I really, I just wouldn't see sense. I was so focused on that I was going to have my fertility treatment and have a child and then sort out the cancer.
She wanted to have another child and found it difficult when others didn't understand why she was...
Others said it was after treatment that they experienced feelings of loss and upset.
Explains that five years after her treatment she found it hard not being able to have a second...
And how do you cope with those types of feelings, how do you find ways to cope?
I suppose that ever since I've had the illness because we'd just moved house I focused on my daughter very much and just on having things to enjoy. I've made sure I've you know treated myself to holidays and I've done all sorts of things that I know I wouldn't have done otherwise. Then two years on we decided to move house again and it was the Friday before she started school on the Monday, so very, very good timing because I was aware that there was going to be a void. And I guess that void will come again in September when I've finished the house and I know I want to move on and do something else and it's making sure that I focus on another project to give me that satisfaction that I can't get from having another child. I guess that's probably the way I've looked at it.
Feelings of loss, fear of rejection from partners and feeling less of a woman were common reactions to the knowledge that they could no longer bear children. A few said that during the first few years after their diagnosis they found it hard to cope with others close to them becoming pregnant or having children. One woman explains why she found sitting in the waiting room for her check-up appointments so difficult.
Explains that she finds it upsetting attending her check-up appointments which are held in the...
A few newly diagnosed young women were worried that their partners might leave them or they would not be able to form future relationships because they could not have children. One young woman, who had feared rejection, explains that when she did start a new relationship her inability to have children had not been a problem.
Describes how over the years she has come to terms with not being able to have children.
So I think once I knew that definitely I think it, it isn't an issue for me anymore, it's something I've coped with over the years. I do feel I'm lucky to be here and that I wasn't meant to have a baby anyway. And I've got so many nieces and nephews and godchildren that I haven't got a problem with children. I remember a counsellor came to see me when I was in hospital once and she said to me 'Whatever you do, do not feel bitter about other people's children because it will destroy you.' And she said if you feel that way buy a dog so I don't feel it's an issue for me anymore to be honest, its something I've coped with over the years I think.
Coping with these feelings can be difficult. Some said that accepting their infertility had become easier over time. Some tried to see the positive aspects. One young woman mentioned that some couples do not find out until they are in their late thirties that they can't have children and her and her partner could now pursue other options at a much younger age.
Explains that not being able to have children was not a problem when she started a new relationship.
Another focused on projects, holidays and doing things that she would not otherwise have done if she had a second child (see Interview 10 above). A third who had not had any children before she was diagnosed said she got enjoyment from her siblings' and friends' children, that over time she had accepted her infertility and had found other ways to have happiness.
Some had pursued other options to have children. A few had investigated having their eggs frozen before treatment but were not able to because their cancer was quite advanced and they needed to start treatment straight away. Another describes the cryo-ovarian preservation operation she had before radiotherapy, which had given her hope that future scientific developments may enable her to use her ovarian tissue to have a child of her own.
Describes the cryo-ovarian preservation operation she had before radiotherapy.
It didn't really hurt, they basically I've got two little scars about my pubic line, one in my tummy button, they put basically a little camera in your tummy button and then take the ovarian tissue out through the two little, two little incisions which are about a centimetre long, hardly at all. And then it's frozen and you don't have to pay for it. The treatment will only be offered to you if, well I say offered I mean I had to ask for it, but you will only be eligible for it if you're, at the moment if you're undergoing treatment for cancer.
And I didn't want to do it unless I sort of thought this is going to be quite likely to come to something. But what I didn't want to happen is to not have it done and then in 5 years time read an article about some woman that had had a baby and think I wish I'd done that. I was a bit cross that the hospital that I was having my cancer treatment in hadn't suggested it to me actually because after I'd had the operation which didn't hurt, came out of my general anaesthetic, I was in sort of a little waiting room, probably half an hour, an hour that sort of time, my sister collected me, jumped in a cab, had a couple of stitches in the three little scars and they gave me some strong pain killers which I didn't take because again I thought I don't want to put anything else in my body And it did hurt a bit but not really, had the stitches out a week later no problem at all. And the doctor was so nice to me and he said to me you know when I found, "You know when you've found somebody that you want to spend the rest of your life with," he said "you come back and we'll sort you out," which I thought was really lovely.
One woman who had a hysterectomy but did not have her ovaries removed was finding out about surrogacy and IVF options. A third newly diagnosed young woman, felt that in the future she could pursue options of surrogacy, IVF or adoption and said that her hopes of having a child were not lost, just different to the way she thought she would have a family.
Describes what it has been like pursuing surrogacy and IVF options.
There is a charity which provides surrogate mothers called Cots. They're not allowed to make any profit from it but you pay their expenses. But again they are very hard to get hold of. They're only open between ten and twelve each day to speak to and the other practicalities are that we've got to be married. So although we were going to get married before it all got stopped and put on hold twice because of my hospital stays. And now I'd sort of decided I don't need to get married now, I love him enough and that's the be all and end all. But according to this surrogacy most clinics do say you have got to be married. So we've now got to get married as well as find the money for surrogacy.
For information on infertility see Infertility Network UK or the Daisy Network which is a support charity for women who have been through premature menopause (often because of chemotherapy).
Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated March 2010.