October 7, 2022

Chemotherapy during pregnancy?

Stephanie Freeman was 4 months pregnant when she learned she had breast cancer. Her care team collaborated to provide the best outcome for her and her baby.

Freeman gave birth to a healthy baby girl thanks to the care they received from a team of specialists.

Four months into her pregnancy, Stephanie Freeman was eagerly anticipating the birth of her baby. Then she felt a lump in her breast.

She went in for a biopsy and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her Kaiser Permanente oncologist put together a treatment plan and asked Morgan Swank, MD, to join Freeman’s care team. Dr. Swank is a specialist in maternal fetal medicine, which focuses on high-risk pregnancies, including women with diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, and, as in Freeman’s case, cancer.

At Kaiser Permanente, teams of specialists collaborate to get the best possible outcomes for both mothers and babies.

‘Finding doctors that I trusted the most’

Freeman had many questions for her care team. Is chemotherapy during pregnancy even an option? How would she tolerate chemotherapy? And, crucially, how would her growing baby respond?

“Before I’d ever spoken with Dr. Swank, she called me and reassured me that the baby was going to be fine,” Freeman said. “Doing chemo while pregnant was really scary. The biggest thing was finding doctors that I trusted the most, who understood that I was pregnant and wanted to keep this baby, and who would make sure she’d be okay.”

Dr. Swank explained that with certain types of chemotherapy, risks to the baby are minimal after the first trimester.

parents with 2 children on a beach

Stephanie Freeman with her husband, AJ, their son, Max (left), and their daughter, Layla (right).

Both mother and daughter made it through both the cancer treatment and the delivery in excellent health. Today, Freeman is cancer free, and her daughter, Layla, is a thriving 4-year-old.

“Layla is growing up beautifully,” said Freeman. “She's dancing, cheerleading, doing gymnastics, riding her bike without training wheels, and swimming without floaties.”

“She is feisty and a fighter, just like her mom,” Dr. Swank added. “After what they went through together, I think the bond they have is pretty special.”

In another milestone, Layla recently became a big sister when Freeman gave birth to a baby boy named Max.

“My husband, AJ, and I feel very lucky that we get to raise our children together,” Freeman said. “I'm looking forward to hitting the 5-year milestone of being cancer-free.”