The nature of chemotherapy presents several risks for the cancer patient who receives the said treatment. Chemotherapeutic drugs make use of chemicals to kill cells that divide rapidly, which is characteristic of cancer cells.
As such, chemotherapy also affects other rapidly dividing cells of the body like those in the mouth and digestive system, pose harmful side effects to the immune system, and may cause fatigue, bleeding, and hair loss, among many others.
Imagine, then, if a pregnant woman underwent chemotherapy treatment: what would be the effects to her unborn child?
According to a recent study, chemotherapeutic drugs seem to have no effect on unborn babies. It’s delivering the baby prematurely in order for him to avoid the adverse effects of chemotherapy that all the more exposes him to the risk of developmental problems.
Furthermore, says lead researcher Frederic Amant, a gynecological oncologist at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, pregnant cancer patients don’t need to delay their treatment, like some opt to do. Only a small amount of the chemotherapy passes through the placenta and reaches the fetus, says Amant, and is highly unlikely to affect the unborn baby.
The researchers looked at 68 children born from 70 pregnancies and noted that about two thirds of these were born pre-37 weeks gestation. The congenital defects of these babies were comparable to those babies born from women without cancer, taking into consideration as well their overall development. No heart abnormalities were also noted.