Chemotherapy During Pregnancy – Navigating the Challenges Amid Your Precious Motherhood

Chemotherapy During Pregnancy – Navigating the Challenges Amid Your Precious Motherhood

Chemotherapy

12/18/2023

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey that is full of joy and happiness. Nevertheless, if you are diagnosed with cancer, you may have many questions running through your mind, thinking about undergoing chemotherapy while protecting your unborn child. This is where you must understand chemotherapy and pregnancy to weigh the potential risks and benefits, along with experiencing specialized care and close collaboration from your healthcare professional.

Let us discuss the challenges and benefits of chemotherapy during pregnancy, exploring its long-term impact on the mother and baby.

Pregnancy and Cancer

Cancer is not common during pregnancy and rarely affects the developing fetus. Nonetheless, diagnosing and treating cancer during pregnancy can pose a challenge due to the impact that cancer screenings and treatments can have on the growing fetus. So, every aspect of your cancer treatment must be done carefully.

The Impact of Chemotherapy on Pregnancy

Chemotherapy during pregnancy may restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of preterm delivery or stillbirth. However, we cannot say these side effects will indeed happen, as a study reveals that no consequences are seen in children born to the mothers receiving chemotherapy when comparing them with the birth weight and gestational age of those born to healthy women. Though premature delivery can cause some problems, it is unclear whether they result from the treatment or other factors associated with the disease.

Benefits and Risks of Chemotherapy During Pregnancy

The benefits and risks are as follows -

Benefits

  • Chemotherapy effectively destroys the cancer cells, ensuring the mother’s health and longevity.
  • Administering chemotherapy after the second trimester won’t pose any risks to the mother and unborn.

Risks

  • Spontaneous miscarriage may happen if chemotherapy is given during the first trimester.
  • An increased possibility of preterm labor or a rupture of membranes.
  • Abnormal fetal growth.
  • Stillbirth.

How Is Cancer Treated During Pregnancy?

Your obstetrician and oncologist will evaluate the diagnosis and make informed decisions concerning treatment options. They will consider several factors to develop the proper treatment regimen, including the size, stage, and types of your cancer and your specific treatment preferences.

Sometimes, your doctor may recommend avoiding or delaying some treatments during pregnancy, including:

  • Waiting until the delivery to treat some types of cancer, such as early-stage cervical cancer.
  • Delaying radiation therapy as its high-energy X-rays can harm the growing fetus anytime if given during the pregnancy.
  • Recommending beginning the treatment post-delivery if your cancer is diagnosed in the later stage of your pregnancy.

When You Will Be Given Chemotherapy During Pregnancy?

Chemotherapy is usually given after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Your oncologist will only administer some chemotherapy drugs that remain safe to your unborn. Your placenta will remain a fence to you and your unborn, preventing the passing of drugs to the fetus through it. You can receive chemotherapy drugs as an IV injection, IV drip, or oral tablets.

The treatment will be temporarily stopped once your pregnancy reaches 37 weeks. This will give you a break for your delivery while preventing the birth of a baby when you have low blood cell levels. Your chemo sessions will be continued after your delivery. If you deliver a baby shortly after your chemo session, you will be given medicines to increase your immunity.

Prenatal and Long-Term Impacts on Children of Chemotherapy During Pregnancy

They are as follows -

Prenatal Impacts

  • Babies of mothers given chemotherapy during pregnancy have transient myelosuppression that involves neutropenia or leukopenia with anemia or thrombocytopenia.
  • Children of pregnant women treated with rituximab (a monoclonal antibody) used to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma have selective B-cell depletion.

Long-Term Impacts

Children of mothers treated with chemotherapy during pregnancy may experience psychological and neurological problems as the central nervous system is easily affected by the chemo drugs. Therefore, those children may process information slower than those born to healthy mothers.

Precautions for Chemotherapy Patients During Pregnancy

Follow these tips -

  • Avoid consuming foods that may interact with chemo drugs.
  • Don’t take any new supplements or medicines.
  • Stay away from infected or sick people.
  • Avoid UV exposure.
  • Avoid consuming seafood or raw meat.
  • Avoid probiotic-rich foods like cottage cheese, yogurt, miso, etc.
  • Don’t be involved in strenuous activities.

Manage Your Cancer Efficiently During Pregnancy with Our Experts

At Chesapeake Oncology-Hematology Associates, we offer the best-in-class cancer care that helps perfectly balance the unborn’s and mother’s well-being while reducing potential complications and physical and mental concerns for you and your family. Contact us today to receive top-notch cancer treatment and support.

FAQs

Can you get chemo while pregnant?

You can receive chemotherapy after the first trimester.

Can I visit a chemo patient while pregnant?

Pregnant women can visit a chemo patient. Nevertheless, chemotherapy drugs are usually discharged through urine, vomit, or stool after 2-3 days of treatment, so you must avoid exposure to these body fluids.

Is it safe to hold a baby after chemotherapy?

While some doctors recommend waiting for 6 months after chemotherapy, some other doctors suggest waiting for 2-5 years. However, the waiting time depends on the woman’s age, type and stage of cancer, and the type of treatment they had.

Does chemo drug cross the placenta?

High molecular weight chemo drugs don’t cross the placenta.

How does chemotherapy affect the first trimester of pregnancy?

Chemotherapy during the first trimester may affect the unborn’s blood system, eyes, and ears and may impact overall growth.

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COHA

COHA is a leading group of oncologists that offer oncology services within Anne Arundel County, Howard County, and Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. We remain committed to bringing the best oncology and hematology services to the residents of this area. Our knowledge, skills, and experience will guide you toward the best treatment options for your health and lifestyle. We offer today’s most effective therapies, expertly and compassionately delivered in our infusion and medical centers.

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