Chemotherapy Safe for Unborn Children

Prenatal chemotherapy exposure does not impact health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Imagine being pregnant and undergoing cancer treatment. You would worry for your own life and the life and health of your baby. New research shows moms-to-be needn't worry for their babies, but should focus on their own health.

Babies who are exposed to chemotherapy before birth develop normally.  The treatment does not appear to affect their mental development or heart function.

"Don't delay chemotherapy because you're pregnant."

Belgian research evaluated 70 children whose mothers had undergone chemotherapy treatment for various forms of cancer. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 18 years and were monitored for an average of nearly two years or as long as 18 years.

During pregnancy, the mothers had either chemotherapy alone or along with radiation or surgery or both.

Researchers evaluated the mental development of the children using a number of tests and measures.

Parents participated by completing surveys relating to their child's behavior and emotional problems.

Electrocardiography and echocardiography were used to assess heart function.

Lead investigator, Professor Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium says the findings "are reassuring" that prenatal exposure to chemotherapy does not affect a child's early cognitive development or heart function.

Amant says the study will continue to see if these children have long-term problems as they age, including infertility or greater risks of developing cancers.

Findings from this study were presented at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in September, 2011.

Studies that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals are considered preliminary.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 29, 2011
Last Updated:
September 29, 2011