October 14, 2019

Chemotherapy during pregnancy?

When Stephanie Freeman was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, a team of specialists collaborated to provide the best care for her and her baby.

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 Stephanie’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 Stephanie’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’

Stephanie 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,” Stephanie 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. Both mother and daughter made it through both the cancer treatment and the delivery in excellent health. Today, Stephanie is cancer free, and her daughter, Layla, is thriving.

“Layla is such a gem,” said Stephanie. “She’s an amazing sleeper and an amazing eater, and she’s always smiling.”

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

Learn more about specialty care at Kaiser Permanente.