Getting pregnant after a stem cell procedure can raise hundreds of questions in your head as you have just undergone a massive medical process.
We are here to help you answer your questions about stem cell transplant, types, pros and cons and the pregnancy, post the process.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are mother cells that have the potential or ability to become any type of cell in the body.
- The main feature of stem cells is their ability to self-renew or multiply while maintaining the potential to develop into other types of cells.
- Stem cells help rebuild a weakened immune system.
- The treatments involving stem cells are very effective for a wide range of diseases like cancer etc.
- There are different sources of stem cells but all types have the same capacity to multiply and develop into varied types of cells.
[ Read: Fertility Yoga ]
Types Of Stem Cell Transplants:
Here are the different types of stem cells:
1. Pluripotent Stem Cells:
PS cells are known to possess the capacity to divide for periods.
- They retain their ability to make all cell types within the organism.
- One of the types of PS cell is also present in embryos that help babies grow within the womb. These are called embryonic stem cells.
2. Fetal Stem Cells:
These are obtained from tissues of a developing human fetus.
3. Adult Stem Cells:
These are obtained from some tissues of the adult body.
- Bone marrow is the best known example which is a rich source of stem cells.
- It can be used to treat and cure some very fatal and life threatening blood diseases and cancers.
What Is Stem Cell Transplant?
A stem cell transplant is the infusion, or injection, of healthy stem cells into your body to replace damaged or diseased stem cells.
- This procedure is advisable in case your bone marrow stops working and does not produce enough healthy stem cells.
- It further helps your body to make and produce enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets, and reduces your risk of getting affected from life threatening infections, anemia and bleeding.
- As the procedure helps in replenishing your body by supplying healthy blood-forming cells, it is called stem cell transplant. It is also named as bone marrow transplant, peripheral blood stem cell transplant or an umbilical cord blood transplant, depending on the source of stem cells.
- This type of transplant uses cells from your own body, from a donor, or from an identical twin. The one in which your own cells are used is known as autologous stem cell transplant. The one in which cells are used from a donor is known as allogeneic stem cell transplant and the one in which cells from an identical twin are used is known as syngeneic transplant.
[ Read: Ayurvedic Treatment For Infertility ]
Benefits Of Stem Cell Transplant:
There are multiple benefits of a stem cell transplant procedure. Few of them are listed below:
1. Kills Cancer Cells:
Stem cell transplant is used to treat people whose stem cells have been damaged by some disease like cancer or by the treatment of some diseases.
- It is helpful in making way to the healthy blood cells.
- These cells then migrate to your bone marrow and produce healthy new cells.
- In stem cell transplant process, cancer cells are killed by infusion of new and healthy stem cells into your body.
2. Recovery From Chemotherapy And Radiation:
The infusion of healthy cells through stem cell transplant allows you to recover faster from chemotherapy and radiation. These new and healthy cells are not exposed to chemotherapy and radiation procedure.
Pregnancy After Stem Cell Transplant:
Getting pregnant following a stem cell transplant is a little rare. The immunity to changes in your body gets reduced after the transplant procedure.
Risks Of Stem Cell Transplant On Pregnancy:
There are quite a few major risks involved with getting pregnant after a stem cell transplant. Make sure you have a discussion with your doctor on this. Here are the major risks:
- Some women become permanently infertile while others recover fertility. There is a thin ray of hope for getting pregnant after this transplant procedure as this treatment may affect normal and abnormal cells and often damage reproductive organs.
- The effects on your fertility will depend on the intensity of the treatment you have. Also, the drugs used in the process of transplant can harm a growing fetus.
- Using birth control is always advisable before and after the transplant. Research and study says that there exists increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and spontaneous abortion.
- The overwhelming majority of women who receive total body irradiation will be sterile. However, some pre-pubertal and adolescent females do recover ovulation and menstruation.
- In patients who receive chemotherapy-only preparation regimens, the incidence of sterility is more variable and more age related.
For men, it is possible to store sperm before they start their chemotherapy. This is called sperm banking.
Measures To Get Pregnant Post Stem Cell Transplant:
For women, the treatment can cause an early menopause which brings the pregnancy success rate drastically low. However, below are a few methods to get pregnant:
1. Collecting Eggs Prior The Transplant:
This is the “Collect-Fertilize-Freeze” method where “collection” of the female eggs is done prior to the stem cell transplant.
- These eggs are then “fertilized” using the male sperms. The embryos thus created are then “frozen” for later use.
- As it takes several weeks to go through the whole process, this might not be a feasible option for those who need to get the transplant done urgently.
- The second stage (fertilizing) may be skipped and the female eggs can be frozen unfertilized. However, this reduces the chances of survival of eggs.
- Post-transplant, the embryos are implanted in the female womb by means of in-vitro fertilization. Though not always successful, there still are a lot of success stories of pregnancies by this method.
2. Freezing Ovarian Tissue:
This method involves a short outpatient surgical procedure to remove the ovarian tissue.
- It is then frozen for implanting later into the ovary to produce the eggs.
- Other kinds of reproductive techniques which include cryogenic preservation (freezing) of embryos, sperm, and eggs are available for future donation.
- Adoption is another option available for couples who want to start the family right after the transplant.
- Stem cell transplants are not very common in India vis-à-vis western countries. A medical examination of your body and system is needed to understand and go ahead with the procedure of transplant.
- Though the pregnancy count is very low after the transplant, it depends on your immunity and other health factors.
We know this can be a difficult phase, but have an honest chat with your doctor, and whatever the outcome, make sure you look at the positives.
We would like to know your responses and experiences, do share them with us in the comment section below.
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