Effects of chemotherapy during pregnancy on the maternal and fetal heart

Prenat Diagn. 2012 Jul;32(7):614-9. doi: 10.1002/pd.3847. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


Objective: The co-occurrence of cancer and pregnancy is more frequently diagnosed. The effects of cancer treatment on maternal and fetal outcomes are less well known. The cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy are a specific concern for the mother and fetus. We wanted to review the existing literature, mainly consisting of case reports, case studies, and retrospective data.

Results: Maternal effects Overall, the published data indicate that pregnancy is not an independent risk factor influencing cancer survival. There is no indirect evidence for an increased risk for maternal chemotherapy-related cardiotoxicity. Fetal effects During the first trimester chemotherapy needs to be avoided because of teratogenic risks. The risks of chemotherapy during the second and third trimester are more controversial. It has been associated with intrauterine growth restriction and preterm delivery in some studies, while others did not find the same effect. Cardiotoxic fetal effects have been reported despite the limited transplacental passage of chemotherapy. In most patients this was transient and long-term data are generally reassuring.

Conclusion: A specific strategy for monitoring fetal and maternal chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity is suggested. Prospective data are needed on the long-term effects of chemotherapy in both mother and child.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthracyclines / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cardiotoxins / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology*
  • Fetal Heart / drug effects*
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / drug therapy*
  • Trastuzumab


  • Anthracyclines
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cardiotoxins
  • Trastuzumab