Pregnancy, contraception and chemotherapy

During your treatment you should avoid unprotected sex. You should not become pregnant or get someone pregnant while having chemotherapy. This is because some treatments can damage a developing baby or increase the risk of miscarriage.

Types of contraception

Talk to your healthcare team about the best type of contraception Open a glossary item for you. This might depend on:

  • your cancer type
  • your medical history

For example, if you have a hormone dependent cancer Open a glossary item or a risk of blood clots, it might not be safe for you to use hormone based contraceptives. This includes the contraceptive pill, the contraceptive injection, or the intrauterine system (IUS).

Protecting your partner

It is not known for sure whether chemotherapy drugs can be passed on through semen or secretions from the vagina. So some doctors advise using a barrier method (such as condoms, femidoms or dental dams) if you have sex during treatment. This applies to vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Generally, you only need a barrier method when you are having the treatment and for about a week afterwards. You may be asked to use contraception for longer to avoid pregnancy. The length of time depends on the chemotherapy you have.

Advice like this can be worrying, but this does not mean that you have to avoid being intimate with your partner. You can still have close contact with your partner and continue to enjoy sex.

Getting pregnant after chemotherapy

Most doctors will advise you to wait for some time after chemotherapy before becoming pregnant. The amount of time will depend on:

  • your type of cancer

  • the type of chemotherapy you have

  • the dose of chemotherapy you have

  • any other treatments you need

Speak to your healthcare team about when it is safe to try.

  • Fertility preservation and post-treatment pregnancies in post-pubertal cancer patients: ESMO clinical practice guidelines
    M Lambertini and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2020. Volume 31. Pages 1664-1678

  • The effects of cancer treatment on reproductive functions: guidance on management
    Royal College of Physicians, The Royal College of Radiologists and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2007

  • Cytotoxic Drugs
    British National Formulary
    Accessed December 2023

  • UK Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use
    The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, 2016 (updated September 2019)

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical and Cancer Nursing Procedures (10th edition, online)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton 
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

Last reviewed: 
23 May 2024
Next review due: 
24 May 2027

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