Chemotherapy during pregnancy does not appear to increase complications for newborn infants

The study examined a group of more than 400 women from across Europe who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant. 197 (48%) of the women underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy, and the authors assessed whether their newborn babies suffered any ill effects that could be attributable to the cancer drugs.

While infants whose mothers had undergone while pregnant had, on average, a lower birth weight than those whose mothers had not had chemotherapy, there were few other noticeable differences between the groups. Babies exposed to chemotherapy in utero appeared to have no higher risk of , no lower Apgar scores, no more frequent or alopecia than those whose mothers did not receive chemotherapy while pregnant.

According to Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group which led the study, "If our findings are confirmed by other studies, during pregnancy could be treated as it is in non-pregnant women without putting foetal and maternal outcomes at substantially increased risk."

The number of chemotherapy cycles received during pregnancy did not appear to affect the babies' birth weight, leading the authors to suggest that the lower is not clinically meaningful.

"In the general population, about 10-15% of infants are born preterm, but in our study, 50% of women with breast cancer delivered preterm, with 23% delivering before the 35th week of gestation. More complications were reported in the group of infants exposed to chemotherapy than in the group not exposed to chemotherapy. However, most complications were reported in babies who were delivered prematurely, irrespective of exposure to chemotherapy."

"Our findings emphasise the importance of prioritising a full-term delivery in women who undergo chemotherapy while pregnant", adds Professor Loibl. "Illness and mortality in newborn babies is directly related to at delivery. This is an important clinical message because the decision to deliver the foetus preterm is often taken without medical indication. Our work suggests that treating patients with breast cancer while pregnant is possible, and there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or receive inferior therapy."

In a linked Comment, Olivier Mir of the Cancer Associated with Pregnancy Network, France, highlights the timeliness of the findings: "The concomitant incidence of breast cancer and pregnancy is rising in high-income countries, because of increases in maternal age at the time of first pregnancy."

However, Dr Mir points out that the effect of chemotherapy in pregnant women is under-researched, and further research should address how chemotherapy doses should be worked out for pregnant patients, and longer-term studies need to assess the effect of in utero chemotherapy on children as they grow older: "Very few studies have assessed the long-term outcomes of chemotherapy during pregnancy, and further work is needed to determine whether the foetal risks outlined by Professor Loibl and her colleagues could be minimised with optimal drug selection and dosing."

More information: www.thelancet.com/journals/lan… (12)70261-9/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Triglycerides significantly elevated in women with GDM

17 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), triglycerides are significantly elevated throughout pregnancy, according to a review published online Jan. 22 in BJOG: An International Jo ...

Safer childbirth for women everywhere

Jan 29, 2015

Few women in developed countries die of blood loss in childbirth, but in remote areas and developing countries, an estimated 100,000 die every year from post-partum haemorrhage. 

10 tips to prepare for pregnancy

Jan 29, 2015

For women of childbearing age looking to become pregnant, it is never too early to engage in healthy habits to ensure that she has a healthy pregnancy and her child has a healthy first step.

AAFP advocates for planned vaginal birth after cesarean

Jan 28, 2015

(HealthDay)—A planned labor and vaginal birth after cesarean (LAC/VBAC) is an appropriate option for most women with a history of prior cesarean birth, according to a clinical practice guideline published ...

Women diagnosed with PCOS twice as likely to be hospitalized

Jan 27, 2015

Women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome - the most common hormone disorder in women of reproductive age - face a heightened risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions, reproductive disorders ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.