Chemo During Pregnancy May Be Safer Than Previously Thought, Small Study Finds

Chemo during pregnancy is a worrying issue for expectant mothers, and, while it affects only one in 1,000 pregnancies, doctors expect the issue to become more prominent as the median age of motherhood continues to increase. But there is some good news for moms who are battling cancer while they happen to be pregnant.

Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, explained to ABC that the issue of women becoming mothers or adding to their families later in life means that more women are facing chemo during pregnancy:

“I would say it is an increasing problem because people are generally delaying pregnancy… Women want to have careers before they start a family, so women are getting pregnant later.”

Chemo during pregnancy has generally been something doctors have advised against if avoidable, even suggesting abortion if it is believed to be too risky for mother and baby. But a small body of research is now suggesting that chemo during pregnancy, while not ideal, may not pose as much of a risk as was previously thought.

Bernik says:

“Ideally, you would avoid chemotherapy in the first trimester of pregnancy… The thought is that the fetus is really developing at that stage and the organs are being developed.”

The study cited by the news organization involved 400 pregnant women in Europe who underwent chemo during pregnancy. The research discovered that chemo during pregnancy seemed to have few if any negative effects on babies after they were born, and most complications resulted from premature birth when recorded.