Pregnant women can be treated for cancer without harming the baby, a collection of studies has indicated.

The research, published in The Lancet, claims that pregnant women can have chemotherapy without harming the baby after the first trimester.

Currently, some women decide to have an abortion, while others risk their own health by waiting until after the baby is born.

Yet the researchers discovered that babies of mothers who were treated with chemotherapy when pregnant had normal IQ, hearing, heart function and general health. However, those babies born prematurely - possibly so the mother could begin chemotherapy - had lower IQ scores.

Lead author Dr Frederic Amant, of the Leuven Cancer Institute, Belgium, said: "We show that children who were prenatally exposed to chemotherapy do as well as other children.

"Our findings do not support a strategy of delay in chemotherapy administration or iatrogenic (ie physician induced) preterm delivery with post-partum chemotherapy administration to avoid harm to the fetus."

"The decision to administer chemotherapy should follow the same guidelines as in non-pregnant patients. In practice, it is possible to administer chemotherapy from 14 weeks gestational age onwards with specific attention to prenatal care." 

The scientists have said a long-term follow up study would now be needed.

Posted by Robert Mair 10/2/2012