California residents and others who have sickle cell disease may find that it is difficult or impossible to have children. This is partially because the available treatment options may render a person infertile. It is also because the disease itself may cause damage to reproductive organs, inflammation and other issues that might render a person effectively sterile.
How treatments may impact fertility
One method of curing a patient of sickle cell disease is to have that patient undergo chemotherapy. After the chemotherapy, bone marrow containing healthy blood cells is implanted into an individual. If the procedure works, you might be free of the disease for the rest of your life. Of course, chemotherapy may result in side effects that may impact your fertility.
How the disease might cause infertility
Even if you don’t engage in chemotherapy, sickled blood cells can cause damage in several different ways. For instance, men may have reduced sperm counts because of improper blood flow to the penis. Meanwhile, inflammation in the ovaries may make it difficult for women to get pregnant.
Access to care is limited
Those who have sickle cell have the option of freezing their eggs or taking other steps to preserve their fertility before undergoing chemotherapy. However, freezing an egg can cost up to $10,000 and is generally not covered by insurance. Although financial assistance may be available, it’s generally reserved for those who have cancer or meet other criteria. It may also be difficult to get treatment for underlying problems caused by the disease such as excruciating pain. If you don’t have insurance, it may be difficult to get proper care in a timely or affordable manner.
If you are unable to have children on your own, surrogacy may be an option. A surrogate may conceive a child using her own eggs or by using one of your eggs that is implanted into her body. Regardless of what you choose, you generally retain the parental rights to the baby after it is born.