Ending a pregnancy when you have cancer

If you have cancer during pregnancy, it is not normally necessary to end the pregnancy. Women can usually have effective treatment while pregnant.

Making a decision to end pregnancy

If you have cancer during pregnancy, it is not normally necessary to end the pregnancy. Women can usually have effective treatment while pregnant.

In certain situations, your specialist doctor may advise ending a pregnancy. This is usually only when there is a serious risk to your health. For example, they may suggest this if:

  • the pregnancy is at an early stage and the cancer is fast-growing
  • you need urgent treatment that would not be safe for the baby
  • you need an operation that is not possible during pregnancy.

It depends on the type of cancer, its stage and how many weeks pregnant you are.

Ending a pregnancy does not improve the outlook (prognosis) for a cancer. But it may mean you can have the most effective treatment. Continuing a pregnancy sometimes means delaying treatment. Or it may mean giving less effective treatment to protect the baby. Your cancer doctor and specialist nurse will explain everything to you. They will help you understand the risks to your health if you continue with the pregnancy.

Getting support

Having to think about ending a pregnancy is very distressing. It is a deeply personal decision that only you can make. You may have been planning your pregnancy for a long time. Or may have struggled to become pregnant. It may even be the result of going through fertility treatment.

You will need a lot of support from a partner, or close family members and friends. Your healthcare team will also support you and respect the choice you make. You may have strong, protective feelings towards the developing baby. For some women, ending a pregnancy may not feel like an acceptable thing to do.

You may decide to end the pregnancy for your own reasons, even if your specialist doctor is not recommending this. It could be because you may feel you cannot get on with treatment and recovery while being pregnant. Or, you may decide to focus on getting well for the family you already have. Whatever the reason, it is an upsetting decision to have to make.

You may need specialist support from a counsellor or a psychologist experienced in supporting people through a loss. Your health care team can usually arrange this for you.