Pregnancy Prevention During Cancer Treatment

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

Preventing pregnancy during treatment for cancer is important for both men and women. About 50% of pregnancies are not planned. If a woman gets pregnant while she or her partner are getting treatment, the health of the baby could be in danger. 

Possible Effects of Pregnancy During Treatment:

  • Delay in cancer treatment which can lead to the cancer getting worse.
  • Birth defects or even death of the fetus. 
  • The baby being born earlier than its due date (premature). 
  • Miscarriage.

Many cancer treatments can affect an unborn fetus. Some of these affects are known and some are not. Because of this, it is important to prevent pregnancy during treatment. This should be done by using two forms of contraceptives (birth control). Keep in mind that some medications can affect how well hormonal birth control works. Ask your provider about which types of birth control will work best for you and which types 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 if birth control was not used during sexual intercourse or if birth control failed).
    • Copper IUD.
    • Emergency Contraceptive Pills. 

It is important for both men and women of childbearing age, who are getting treatment for cancer, 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 as that is never a guarantee. 

In some cases, it may be suggested to wait a certain amount of time after treatment has ended to get pregnant. Speak 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. 

References

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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraception. 2020. Found at https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm

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