Pregnancy Prevention During Cancer Treatment

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: December 16, 2022

Preventing pregnancy during cancer treatment is important for both men and women. If you were to get pregnant while you or your partner were getting cancer treatment, it could affect the health of the baby.

How can cancer treatments affect pregnancy?

Some of the effects caused by cancer treatments are known and some are not. Some of the known effects include:

  • Delay in your cancer treatment which can lead to your cancer getting worse.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Birth defects or even death of the fetus.
  • Slow fetal growth.
  • The baby being born earlier than its due date (premature).
  • Higher risk of childhood cancers for babies.

How can pregnancy be prevented?

Preventing pregnancy during treatment can be done by using contraceptives (birth control). Keep in mind that some medications can affect how well hormonal birth control works. Ask your provider which types of birth control will work best for you and which are most effective.

Types of birth control include:

  • Permanent Birth Control
    • Vasectomy: Surgery to cut the male vasa deferentia which stops sperm from entering the urethra.
    • Tubal Ligation: Surgery to tie or close a woman’s fallopian tubes so that sperm and eggs cannot meet, and an egg cannot become fertilized.
  • Abstinence: Not having sexual intercourse.
  • Non-hormonal/Barrier Methods
    • Diaphragm/Cervical Cap.
    • Sponge.
    • Spermicide.
    • Male Condom.
    • Female Condom.
  • Hormonal Methods
    • Progestin implant that is placed in a woman’s arm.
    • Progestin injections.
    • Oral Contraceptives (birth control pills).
    • Contraceptive patch for women.
    • Vaginal Ring.
  • Intrauterine Devices (IUD)
    • Copper T Intrauterine Device.
    • Levonorgestrel Intrauterine System.
  • Emergency Contraception: Can be used in some cases if birth control was not used during sexual intercourse or if birth control failed.
    • Copper IUD.
    • Emergency Contraceptive Pills.

If you are of childbearing age and are getting treatment for cancer it is important for you to use effective birth control. This is important even if your periods have stopped, you have a low sperm count, or your provider has told you that the treatment may make you infertile since that is not guaranteed.

Your provider may suggest waiting a certain amount of time after treatment has ended to get pregnant or father a child. Talk to your provider about any questions you may have. If you may want to have children in the future, you should speak to your provider about fertility options.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November 1). Contraception. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from

Gideon Koren MD, Nathalie Carey BSc, Robert Gagnon MD, Cynthia Maxwell MD, Irena Nulman MD and Vyta Senikas MD Cancer Chemotherapy and Pregnancy Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada (JOGC), 2013-03-01, Volume 35, Issue 3, Pages 263-278, Copyright © 2013 Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada

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