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

August 15, 2012

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."

Explore further: Surgery and chemotherapy are possible for pregnant women with breast cancer

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

Related Stories

Surgery and chemotherapy are possible for pregnant women with breast cancer

February 9, 2012
Breast cancer in pregnant women is as common as in non-pregnant women of the same age, with no evidence to suggest pregnancy increases the risk of such cancer. In the majority of cases, pregnant women can have their breast ...

Study says children of women exposed to chemotherapy in pregnancy develop as well as other children

February 9, 2012
A study published Online First by The Lancet Oncology, and linked to The Lancet Series on cancer in pregnancy, shows that children of women exposed to chemotherapy while pregnant develop as well as children in the general ...

Chemotherapy during pregnancy does not seem to cause developmental problems in children

September 26, 2011
Children born after their mothers were treated with chemotherapy during pregnancy appear to be unaffected by the experience in terms of the development of their mental processes and the normal functioning of their hearts, ...

Study finds prior preterm delivery indicates subsequent baby will be small even if carried to term

February 9, 2012
In a study to be presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in Dallas, Texas, researchers will report findings that indicate that women who deliver their first baby ...

Recommended for you

Sleeping position linked to the risk of stillbirth

November 20, 2017
Pregnant women who go to sleep on their back during the later stages of pregnancy face an increased likelihood of suffering a stillbirth, according to new research.

Study in mice finds dietary levels of genistein may adversely affect female fertility

November 14, 2017
Exposure to the phytoestrogen genistein prior to conception may adversely affect female fertility and pregnancy outcomes, depending on the dosage and duration of exposure, a new study in mice suggests.

IUDs may have a surprising benefit: Protection against cervical cancer

November 7, 2017
Considered a safe and highly effective contraception method, intrauterine devices (IUDs) may also be quietly offering protection against the third-most common cancer in women worldwide. A new study from the Keck School of ...

Increasing rates of chronic conditions putting more moms, babies at risk

November 7, 2017
Pregnant women today are more likely to have chronic conditions that could cause life-threatening complications than at any other time in the past decade - particularly poor women and those living in rural communities, a ...

First time mums with an epidural who lie down more likely to have a normal birth

October 18, 2017
Adopting a lying down position rather than being upright in the later stages of labour for first-time mothers who have had a low dose epidural leads to a higher chance of them delivering their baby without any medical intervention, ...

Mice delivered by C-section gain more weight than those delivered naturally

October 11, 2017
Mice born by Caesarian section gained on average 33 percent more weight in the 15 weeks after weaning than mice born vaginally, with females gaining 70 percent more weight.

0 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.