Ovarian cancer can occur during pregnancy, but it’s rare. Most ovarian cancers found during pregnancy don’t cause symptoms and are at an early stage. Treatment may include surgery, chemo, or both.

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. The ovaries produce eggs that are used for reproduction. After uterine cancer, ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecological cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that the lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 1.1%. The likelihood of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer during pregnancy is even lower.

This article explores what to know about having ovarian cancer during pregnancy, including topics like symptoms, associated risks, and treatment.

It’s possible to develop any type of cancer while pregnant. Researchers estimate that cancer complicates about 1 in 1,000 pregnancies with breast cancer, cervical cancer, and lymphoma being some of the most common.

Ovarian cancer can also happen during pregnancy. However, it’s much rarer.

Research estimates that ovarian cancer affects 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 30,000 pregnancies, making up about 3% to 6% of abnormal tissue masses (neoplasms) diagnosed during pregnancy.

Many times, ovarian cancer is discovered during a pregnancy ultrasound. Because of this, about 90% of people who develop ovarian cancer during pregnancy are diagnosed at an early stage (stage 1).

The types of ovarian cancer pregnant people develop are also different. For example, germ cell and borderline tumors are more common in this group. Epithelial tumors, the most common type of ovarian cancer overall, can also occur.

Does ovarian cancer pose a risk for my developing baby?

If you’re diagnosed with ovarian cancer while pregnant, it’s very unlikely that your cancer will spread to your baby.

In fact, a 2019 research review notes that melanoma, lung cancer, and blood cancers are the only cancers that have been reported to spread to the placenta and fetus.

Most of the risks to a developing baby are actually associated with cancer treatment. While it’s generally safe to treat ovarian cancer in pregnancy, the type of treatment and its timing must be carefully considered. Potential risks include:

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Many pregnant people with ovarian cancer have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

These symptoms are nonspecific and are also similar to those of pregnancy. Due to this, they can be overlooked. Many ovarian cancers in pregnant people are found during a pregnancy ultrasound.

Can a pregnancy test show ovarian cancer?

Pregnancy tests look for human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). This is a hormone your body makes when you’re pregnant.

Some tumors make hCG as well. This hCG may pass from the blood into the urine. Due to this, you may receive a false positive result on a pregnancy test.

Positive pregnancy tests have been reported in people with ovarian cancer who aren’t pregnant. Elevated hCG is most often associated with germ cell tumors.

That said, a positive pregnancy test cannot definitely show ovarian cancer. Other tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis. If you receive a positive result on a home pregnancy test, it’s important to see your doctor to confirm it.

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Ovarian cancer during pregnancy is typically treated with surgery, chemotherapy (chemo), or both. Treatment choices can depend on factors like:

  • the type of ovarian cancer you have
  • the stage, or extent, of your cancer
  • how likely the cancer is to grow and spread quickly
  • the size of your tumor
  • where you are in your pregnancy
  • your overall health
  • your personal preferences

We review each treatment option in more detail below.


Surgery for ovarian cancer during pregnancy typically involves removal of one or both ovaries. The safest period of the pregnancy to do surgery is the second trimester. During this time, the risk of miscarriage is reduced.

If you have very early stage ovarian cancer that’s only in one ovary, you may be able to have fertility-sparing surgery. This involves the removal of only the affected ovary.

If ovarian cancer is discovered during the third trimester, your doctor may recommend delaying surgery until after delivery.

Surgery at this point in the pregnancy is more difficult due to the uterus and fetus being larger. There’s also a higher risk of preterm delivery.


Chemo can be safe and effective in pregnant people. Because the risk of congenital defects and miscarriage due to chemo is higher in the first trimester, when it’s necessary, chemo is typically given in the second or third trimester.

During this time, chemo is still associated with a higher risk of:

Additionally, chemo can lead to a higher risk of infections or bleeding during delivery. This means that chemo will typically be stopped in the 3 weeks leading up to delivery.

Some examples of chemo drugs that may be used in pregnant people include taxanes like paclitaxel and platinum-based drugs like carboplatin. It’s possible that a combination of these drug types may be used.

Pregnancy termination

It’s possible for many pregnant people with cancer to go on to deliver healthy babies. However, some pregnant people diagnosed with ovarian cancer may choose to terminate their pregnancy.

A 2020 research review notes that it’s important to discuss termination of a pregnancy in situations where immediate cancer treatment would be needed.

This is particularly relevant when ovarian cancer is diagnosed during the first trimester, a period of time when cancer treatment is associated with higher risk to a developing baby.

A small 2020 study involving 85 pregnant people with ovarian cancer found that most individuals who chose to terminate their pregnancy did so when their cancer was diagnosed in the first trimester.

Stay informed

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that secured a person’s constitutional right to an abortion.

This means that individual states are now able to decide their own abortion laws. Many states will ban or severely restrict abortion access, and more states may follow suit.

The information in this article was accurate and up to date at the time of publication, but it’s possible the information has changed since. To learn more about your legal rights, you can message the Repro Legal Helpline via a secure online form or call 844-868-2812.

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The previously mentioned 2020 research review notes that the 5-year survival rate for people with ovarian tumors in pregnancy is estimated to be between 72% to 90%.

This is much higher than the relative 5-year survival rate of ovarian cancer, which is 50.9%, according to the NCI. The improved outlook for pregnant people is likely due to a few things:

  • Most pregnant people are diagnosed with early stage cancer.
  • Ovarian cancers that typically have a better outlook, such as germ cell tumors and borderline tumors, occur more frequently in pregnant people.
  • Pregnant people are younger than the average age of ovarian cancer diagnosis (age 63) and may have fewer underlying health conditions.

If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer during pregnancy, the factors that can affect your outlook and the outlook of your developing baby include:

  • the type of ovarian cancer you have
  • the stage of your cancer
  • how likely the cancer is to grow and spread quickly
  • the size of your tumor
  • where you are in your pregnancy
  • which type of treatment is recommended and how the cancer responds to it
  • when in your pregnancy you receive your treatment
  • your overall health

Since every person with cancer is different, it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor about your individual outlook. They can take all the factors above into consideration to give you a better idea of what to expect.

It’s possible to get ovarian cancer during pregnancy. However, having ovarian cancer while pregnant is very rare.

Many pregnant people with ovarian cancer don’t have symptoms. The cancer is often diagnosed at an early stage during a pregnancy ultrasound.

The treatment of ovarian cancer during pregnancy can include surgery, chemo, or both. The type of treatment that’s recommended for you can depend on factors like the type of cancer you have, its stage, and where you are in your pregnancy.