Fertility Drugs and Childhood Leukemia

It can be immensely stressful and hugely challenging for a couple to go through a period of infertility when they want a child so badly. It can feel like they will never be able to conceive a child and that they will not be able to make their dreams of having a family come true. Fertility drugs like Clomid or other hormone drugs may seem like the perfect solution to the challenge of infertility.

There was a 2012 study that showed that the use of Clomid could be linked to a higher likelihood that the child conceived will get childhood leukemia. Headlines across the internet screamed “Fertility Drugs More than Double Chance of Leukemia.” That is a scary thing for a woman contemplating Clomid therapy to read. So what is the best way to approach this?

This study concluded that kids conceived to parents using certain hormone drugs for infertility were 2.6 times more likely than kids conceived without such drugs, to develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); the most common type of childhood leukemia. The bad news keeps coming; there is an increase by 2.3 times in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This is rough stuff. Leukemia is one of the scariest diagnoses a parent can hear for his or her child, and the thought that a parent could be doing something that would increase that chance is almost unbearable.

So where does that leave you, a couple trying to conceive a child and worried about using Clomid? As with everything else, it is up to you. As a parent (or a parent-to-be), you will likely encounter all sorts of things that will be linked with different cancers and diseases in retrospect.

There is a 2010 study that looked at a potential connection between fertility treatments and infant leukemia, which included the ALL diagnoses in infants. This study found no correlation or causation between the drugs and leukemia.

Between these two studies, it seems clear that more study is definitely needed in order to confidently state whether there is or is not a connection between Clomid and childhood leukemia. News websites love stories about childhood cancers, since they know these stories will be hugely popular, and will be clicked on by thousands of concerned parents.

In addition, to put these numbers into perspective, the chance of a child being diagnosed with childhood or infant leukemia is so small that for a child to have a risk of 2.6 times the normal risk is still extremely small. If you have a child who was conceived using Clomid, your best bet is to talk to your doctor about your concerns and about the potential risk your child faces.

If you have been infertile and are not sure about whether or not this should change your mind about using Clomid or hormone therapy, keep in mind that these drugs are still widely prescribed. Therefore, it seems clear that the medical community has not adopted the results of the 2012 study as a reason to stop prescribing these drugs. Each mother-to-be should make the decision for herself whether she will take on this potential risk for her child. There are risks inherent in every decision, and parenthood is a constant challenge to make the best decisions possible.

Tips for Getting Your Body Ready for Conception

The state of a woman’s body, as the site of conception and the place where the fetus grows into a baby able to survive on its own, is one of the most important factors in conceiving a child. As a mother-to-be, you may feel a tremendous responsibility to your future baby to provide them with the best start possible in life. You may be wondering, ‘What can I do now, before we start trying to conceive? Am I just thinking too far in advance?’

A few months before you start trying to conceive is the best time to prepare your body for conception and pregnancy! Here are some things you can do to prepare:

1)      Eat With Pregnancy in Mind

A good rule of thumb is to eat as if you are already pregnant. Make sure to eat enough calories; even if you are overweight, now is not the time to cut calories to try to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, try eating less processed foods and increase exercise rather than decreasing how much you eat. Eat when you are hungry. Make sure to eat plenty of good fats like coconut oil and fatty fish. If you are concerned about mercury content in fish, try to eat smaller fish like canned herring, and wild-caught salmon. Try to ensure that at least three-quarters of the food you eat is not processed: meat, fish, dairy, fruits, and vegetables should fill most of your plate, along with some whole, unprocessed grains like quinoa.


2)      Exercise

If you are a hard-core workout fiend, you can keep up the pace, but it may be beneficial to tone it down slightly. If you have not been exercising, start slow. Mild to moderate exercise each day will help maintain overall good health, reduce stress, and keep the blood flowing to your reproductive organs.

Mild exercise will also likely increase your sex drive, which will benefit your relationship and will help make it more likely to conceive in two ways. The first is that when your body is wanting to have sex, your cervical mucus will increase in volume and improve in consistency, the better to transport sperm into the cervix. The second way is that, with a better sex drive, you will be having more sex!


3)      Reduce Stress

Stress is likely the number-one reason couples are unable to conceive (although this is not able to be proven). The best thing to do is stay in touch with your partner, keep your relationship strong, and laugh a lot. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to start a family, which may unfortunately further delay conception. When your body is feeling stressed, it acts to prevent pregnancy, so it is best to keep stress levels low.


4)      Relax

This is somewhat related to the previous tip: don’t get so caught up in doing everything you can to try to get pregnant that you forget to relax and have fun! You are likely nervous and uncomfortable, wondering what the future will hold, but try to think about how you’ll remember this time once you have your full brood of kids!

Does Smoking Have A Negative Impact on Fertility?

Smoking woman

There is no question as to whether smoking affects a person’s health. By now, everyone knows about the wrinkly, sallow skin, yellow fingernails and teeth, and constant cough. Not to mention the increased risk of lung cancer, and the other cancers as well. Emphysema is another chronic condition linked to smoking. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the newest in the cachet of smokers’ diagnoses—it is a long-term disease of the lungs with symptoms like a chronic cough, coughing up mucus, and constantly being short of breath.

And that’s just what smoking does to your body; imagine what it would do to your child-to-be. That is, if you can conceive one while you smoke. It is all bad news when it comes to smoking when you are trying to conceive. Smoking affects all areas of a person’s overall well-being and all areas of a person’s reproductive health.

Smoking is proven to reduce sperm count by around 17%, which can have a major impact on fertility. It is also linked with a reduction in sperm motility as well as a reduction in normal, healthy sperm. This means that smoking could be potentially linked to an increased risk of birth defects. Sperm motility (movement) is important in order for the sperm to be able to travel up the vagina into the cervix in order to fertilize the egg.

Overall, smokers have a much harder time conceiving, and they can take up to twice as long as non-smokers can to successfully conceive. Smoking reduces blood flow to all the cells in the body, including all the reproductive organs in the body.

Smoking can affect a woman’s hormone balance, and can be associated with menstrual cycle challenges. The woman’s eggs may not be as strong as they would otherwise, and her uterine lining may not be as nourishing to a fertilized egg. If both parents smoke, that means that there is an increased risk of both the sperm and the egg being damaged.

Smoking is known to be linked to lower birth rate and higher rate of miscarriage, as well as a higher stillbirth rate. Lastly, it has been associated with a much higher risk for preterm labor. Preterm labor, in turn, comes with its own host of challenges to the baby: risk of failure to thrive and low birth rate, as well as the chance for underdeveloped heart and lungs in the baby. Most premature babies have to spend some time in the NICU, which has a negative impact on the chances of developing a successful breastfeeding relationship.

If a woman who is trying to conceive is exposed to second-hand smoke, her chances of conceiving are affected much the same as if she were a smoker. Second-hand smoke can also be tremendously damaging to a fetus, so pregnant women should avoid being around smoke. There are huge risks to the fetus in utero if its mother is around second-hand smoke.

If you or your partner is a smoker and you are thinking of trying to conceive, it is best for everyone if you both quit for your own health, for your ability to conceive, and for the health of your future child.

photo by: FelixJLeupold