Cancer Treatment While Pregnant FAQ
You are likely to have lots of questions about the treatment planned for your cancer and how it might affect your pregnancy. Here we address some of the most common ones.
Don't forget, your healthcare team can also give you specific answers and details unique to your needs.
What treatment can I have for cancer while pregnant?
This depends on the type and stage of your pregnancy, and any other health conditions that you and/or baby may have. Chemotherapy, surgery and at times radiotherapy are all options that may be considered by your specialist team.
Some cancer treatments can cause harm to baby, especially during the first trimester (the first three months of pregnancy), so in this case treatment may be delayed until the second or third trimesters.
When cancer is diagnosed later in pregnancy, doctors may wait to start treatment until after the baby is born, or they may consider offering an early induction of labour.
Your wishes do matter, and you will be part of the discussion to decide on your care plan, when you can also ask any questions that you need. You have the right to decline or accept treatment or to ask for a second opinion.
Can I have chemotherapy while pregnant?
Chemotherapy is not usually given during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy (first trimester) when the baby is in a very early stage of development. After Week 12, some types of chemotherapy may be given. At this time, the placenta acts as a barrier between the parent and baby, and many drugs cannot pass through this barrier, or they only pass through in very small amounts.
Can I have radiotherapy while pregnant?
Radiotherapy can harm a baby’s development and is generally avoided during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary. If this were the case, the risks would be discussed with the family before treatment was decided.
Will cancer treatment affect my feeding choices?
The effects of cancer treatment can make breastfeeding impossible for some people. This can be upsetting, especially if it was an expectation or desire for mum/parent.
For more information and suggestions around breastfeeding with cancer, click here to find another article specifically on the subject.
Bottle feeding may also be difficult if you are still having or recovering from treatment. You might want to consider what support you might need to make feeding as low-demand as possible. For example, can your partner help, what equipment will best support you physically, would it help to speak to an infant feeding specialist?
Your Mummy's Star Support Worker can help you explore the options and best course of action for you and your child.
How will I cope with a newborn/baby/my child/children while having treatment?
Parenting is hard work at the best of times, but while having cancer treatment you may find your capacity and energy are limited. You may also need to be away for appointments, treatments etc. This doesn't mean you won't be able to cope, but you may need more support than you expected!
Your Support Worker can listen and talk with you about helpful strategies and adjustments you could make. ParentingWithCancer.org is a website created by Fruitfly Collective, in collaboration with Mummy's Star and many other fantastic organisations, to specifically support parents with cancer. It offers a combination of parenting coaching sessions, practical tools, coping skills and advice from online workshops. They also have helpful information about calming kids, help with school, feelings and emotions, talking to children, developing new behaviours, and parenting from bed.
We also have a number of articles in our Support Library that explore parenting and cancer.
What do I do if I'm not happy with my treatment / care?
If at any point you are not happy with your treatment or care, in the first instance please speak with your healthcare team to see if the issue can be resolved. Although not a legal right, you can ask your GP or current consultant to request a second opinion and most doctors will be happy to refer you. Mummy's Star may be able to offer advocacy support in these instances.
If the issue is not resolved through them you may want to contact your local PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service). Most PALS services can be contacted through your hospital switchboard and/or website.
If you are a pregnant person having cancer treatment, and have more questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to your Information and Support Worker or email email@example.com for referral.