We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Concerns with Pregnancy and Chemotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The primary concern with pregnancy and chemotherapy is that chemotherapy medications have a potential to cause birth defects, targeting rapidly dividing cells. Limited studies on the subject are available due to concerns about medical ethics. Researchers do not want to deliberately expose developing fetuses to chemotherapy just to see what happens, so they are limited to data on women who chose to receive chemotherapy in pregnancy as a lifesaving measure. Results from these studies have been mixed, showing that some agents are more toxic than others.

Chemotherapy medications typically identify rapidly dividing cells and attempt to interfere with cell division to suppress tumor growth. For a growing fetus, this could present significant programs. Some medications may target cells by specific receptor or type, in which case a developing fetus might be safer, and others cannot cross the placenta. In other instances, pregnancy and chemotherapy can be a bad mix because the drugs may be teratogenic, which indicates that they may cause birth defects.

This is a special concern in the first trimester, when a fetus is rapidly growing and laying the groundwork for the development of the body. In later trimesters, the risk can be less serious, although chemotherapy could still interfere with processes like organ development. The specific risks depend on the particular medication and typically study samples are too small to issue generalized warnings about pregnancy and chemotherapy. For this reason, doctors may be reluctant to recommend chemotherapy in pregnancy, because they don’t know enough about the possible outcomes.

A 2011 study in Northern Europe suggested that the risks of pregnancy and chemotherapy were not as dangerous as previously supposed, and that the bigger concern was premature birth. Women may deliver prematurely in an attempt to spare a fetus from exposure to chemotherapy, or could go into labor prematurely while receiving cancer care. In both cases, the premature delivery can increase the risk of problems later in life for the baby.

A history of chemotherapy is not dangerous for women considering pregnancy, although they may need to wait several months after treatment to allow the drugs to completely clear their systems. In cases where women received radiation or surgery to treat gynecological cancers, they may be infertile as a result of treatment. Pediatricians generally recommend against breastfeeding while on chemotherapy, and advise mothers to consider other resources, like milk banks or formula, to meet infant nutritional needs.

The bottom line with pregnancy and chemotherapy can vary from case to case. The risks of not treating cancer might be higher than those associated with the medications, and some chemotherapy regimens are gentler than others. Patients can meet with obstetricians, pediatricians, and oncologists to talk over their options.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.