Fertility & Pregnancy

Many people who donate a kidney are of child-bearing age.  For this reason, many potential living kidney donors are concerned about whether living kidney donation will affect their future fertility and pregnancies.

Can I have children after donating a kidney?

Are there any risks to future pregnancies?

Can living kidney donation affect my fertility?

Do I need to stop taking birth control if I become a living kidney donor?

 

Can I have children after donating a kidney?

Yes. Kidney donation should not affect your ability to have children. Many living kidney donors at centers around the world have had children after donating a kidney.1-5 However, if you had any fertility issues before donation, kidney donation will not fix those issues.

For male donors: There is no evidence that living kidney donation affects the fertility of male donors.

For female donors: Many female donors become pregnant after donating a kidney. Most transplant centers recommend waiting at least one full year after donating to become pregnant so that your body can fully heal and adjust to having one kidney.

In 2003, the international transplant community released the following statement:2

“Donor nephrectomy is not detrimental to the prenatal course or outcome of future pregnancies.” In other words, women can have healthy pregnancies after living kidney donor surgery.

Pregnancy & Fertility

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Are there any risks to future pregnancies?

The transplant community is constantly reviewing data to check whether donating a kidney affects one’s ability to get pregnant, maintain a healthy pregnancy, and deliver a healthy baby. While we know that many people have healthy pregnancies after donation, we are still working to determine if there is any increased risk to the pregnancy after donating a kidney. Two recent studies suggest that there may be small increases in pregnancy risks after kidney donation, but other studies found no evidence of increased risk.

We understand that pregnancy is a very important and personal issue, one that is important to many younger donors. It is beyond the scope of this website to describe individual studies in detail, so we suggest that you talk to a transplant health care provider about any pregnancy-related questions you may have.

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Can living kidney donation affect my fertility?

One study found that, among couples containing at least one living kidney donor who tried to conceive, 8.3% had trouble with infertility.  That is less than half the worldwide infertility rate of 16.7%.4

For couples where one spouse donates to the other:

Over the last several years, several research studies have looked at how male fertility is affected by immunosuppression (the anti-rejection medications taken by a transplant recipient after receiving an organ transplant).  One study found that male kidney transplant recipients who received their transplant while they were children did not produce as many sperm, resulting in lower semen quality.6  Their testosterone levels were also lower than those of men the same age, although they were still in the normal range.  This might make it more difficult for couples to get pregnant if the man is a kidney transplant recipient, but it has not been fully studied.

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I’m on birth control. Do I need to stop taking birth control if I become a living kidney donor?

It is safe to use birth control after living kidney donation. However, certain types of birth control use hormones like estrogen and should be stopped six weeks prior to donation surgery, because they can increase the risk of having a blood clot after surgery. If you are on a birth control pill, you should talk to your transplant team about whether you need to stop taking it before surgery. If you had to stop taking your birth control medication before donation, your transplant team will also let you know when it is safe to start using it again.

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1. Ibrahim HN, Akkina SK, Leister E, Gillingham K, Cordner G, Guo H, et al. Pregnancy Outcomes After Kidney Donation. American Journal of Transplantation. 2009;9(4):825-34.

2. Nevis IF, Garg AX, for the Donor Nephrectomy Outcomes Research N. Maternal and Fetal Outcomes After Living Kidney Donation. American Journal of Transplantation. 2009;9(4):661-8.

3. Buszta C, Steinmuller DR, Novick AC, Shreiber MJ, Cunningham R, Popowniak KL, et al. Pregnancy after donor nephrectomy. Transplantation. 1985;40(6):651-4.

4. Wrenshall LE, McHugh L, Felton P, Dunn DL, Matas AJ. Pregnancy after donor nephrectomy. Transplantation. 1996;62(12):1934-6.

5. Reisæter AV, Røislien J, Henriksen T, Irgens LM, Hartmann A. Pregnancy and Birth After Kidney Donation: The Norwegian Experience. American Journal of Transplantation. 2009;9(4):820-4.

6. Tainio J JK, Nurmio M, Pakarinen M, Jalanko H, Jahnukainen T. Testicular function, semen quality, and fertility in young men after renal transplantation during childhood or adolescence. Transplantation. 2014;98(9):987-93.