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Chronic Illnesses That May Affect Fertility

If you have a chronic illness, your body is likely under a great deal of physical stress, which can interfere with many of its normal functions, including ovulation. Conditions that cause a significant amount of weight loss are especially harmful to normal reproductive function. Graves' disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and other thyroid disorders, for example, can stop ovulation altogether. According to Dr. Robert Jansen, a clinical professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Sydney, fertility may also become impaired if you suffer from chronic liver or kidney disease, as such illnesses have been known to interfere with the normal functioning of the pituitary gland.

Cancer is another condition that may have a negative effect on fertility. While chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can effectively treat cancer, these treatments may also affect a woman's fertility in different ways. Radiation treatment in the lower abdomen may put a woman's ovaries at risk for being damaged or even destroyed, depending on the size and location of the tumor and the dosage of radiation required. Serious damage to the ovaries can cause a woman to stop producing female hormones and lead to early menopause and infertility. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, can also damage or destroy ovaries while fighting to destroy the cancer. And certain cancers that affect the reproductive organs may require surgery to completely remove those organs, causing infertility.

Treatment for other diseases (such as lupus) and certain autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis) may also put fertility at risk. Before starting any treatment for a chronic illness, consult with a fertility specialist to discuss possible ways to improve your chances of getting pregnant in the future. Options may include taking hormones to stop you from ovulating during treatment, taking medications known to be gentler on the reproductive system, and freezing eggs that have been fertilized by your partner's sperm before beginning treatment.

 


 

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