Drugs Home > Etoposide and Pregnancy

Based on the results of animal studies, a pregnancy Category D classification has been assigned to etoposide. This means that it can cause harm to an unborn child if it is given during pregnancy. Although this medication has not been adequately studied in pregnant women, animal studies have shown that etoposide may increase the risk for miscarriages, birth defects, and other problems.

Can Pregnant Women Use Etoposide?

Etoposide is a prescription medication used in the treatment of certain types of cancer. It is typically used in combination with other cancer medicines. Etoposide may harm an unborn child if used by a pregnant woman.

What Is Pregnancy Category D?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a category system to classify the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy. Etoposide is classified as a pregnancy Category D medicine.
Pregnancy Category D is a classification given to medicines that have been shown to present a risk to the fetus in studies of pregnant women but may still offer benefits that outweigh the risks the drug presents. A pregnancy Category D medicine may still be given to a pregnant woman if her healthcare provider believes that the benefits to the woman outweigh the possible risks to her unborn child.
In animal studies, etoposide increased the risk for birth defects and other problems when given to pregnant rats and mice, even in small doses. In mice, the drug decreased fetal body weight, increased the risk for miscarriage, and caused abnormal skull development and major skeletal defects. Pregnant rats given the medicine had offspring with increased risk for neural tube defects, skeletal abnormalities, and underdevelopment or complete absence of the eyes. Doses up to one-half the normal equivalent human dose caused miscarriages in most of the rats.
Etoposide has not been adequately studied in pregnant women. However, there have been reports of severe bone marrow depression, which occurs when the bone marrow cannot make adequate amounts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, in newborns whose mothers received the medicine during pregnancy. The drug has also been reported to impair fetal growth.
Because of the potential risks associated with its use during pregnancy, it is generally recommended that etoposide not be used in pregnant women. However, because it is used to treat potentially fatal cancers, there may be times when the medication is recommended during pregnancy despite the potential risks.
Women of childbearing potential should use an effective form of birth control to prevent pregnancy during etoposide treatment. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the best birth control option for your particular situation. He or she can also tell you when it is safe to become pregnant after treatment has ended.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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