Although it is known as a common treatment for cancer, interferon is also used to treat other diseases. Because of the risks to the fetus, it is recommended that pregnancy not occur while the patient–male or female–is taking interferon. However, that does not prevent a couple from having a baby after using interferon.
What is Interferon?
According to Medicine Net, interferons are a group of proteins that occur naturally within the body’s immune system. There are three different classes of interferons: alpha, beta and gamma; the effect of each class overlaps the others. Interferons help the body’s immune system to attack diseases by affecting the disease’s growth or function. Although it is commonly spoken of as “interferon,” it is not a singular generic drug. There are several different interferons, based upon what is added to the proteins–such as ribavirin or polyethylene glycol–that affects whether it is injected or taken orally.
Use of Interferon
According to Medicine Net, interferon is used to treat diseases of the immune system, including various cancers, AIDS-related sarcoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis B.
Pregnancy Risks on Interferon
Medicine Net states that there have not been enough studies conducted on pregnant women taking interferon; however, studies on laboratory animals indicate an increased risk of miscarriage. “Interferon Beta Babies,” an article by Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, and A. Dessa Sadovnick, PhD (Neurology 2005;65:788–789), concurs with Medicine Net’s findings, and the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that interferon can cause developmental malformations in babies of parents–mother or father–who were taking the medicine when conception occurred.
Pregnancy After Interferon
“Interferon Beta Babies” presented the combined data of several studies indicating that the use of Interferon did not affect fertility in women. Because of the increased risks of miscarriage and malformation, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommended patients wait 6 months after the use of Interferon before becoming pregnant.
Once a woman or man is no longer taking interferon, pregnancy is not a concern. In their article, Drs. Waubant and Sadovnick indicated there were not any increased miscarriage risks or developmental malformations in patients who were no longer taking interferon as opposed to patients taking placebos.