Many things are especially important during pregnancy, such as eating right, cutting out cigarettes and alcohol, and being careful about the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take. Diagnostic x -rays and other medical radiation procedures of the abdominal area also deserve extra attention during pregnancy.
There is scientific disagreement about whether the small amounts of radiation used in diagnostic radiology can actually harm the unborn child, but it is known that the unborn child is very sensitive to the effects of things like radiation, certain drugs, excess alcohol, and infection. If radiation or other agents were to cause changes in these cells, there could be a slightly increased chance of birth defects or certain illnesses, such as leukemia, later in life.
It should be pointed out, however, that the majority of birth defects and childhood diseases occur even if the mother is not exposed to any known harmful agent during pregnancy. Scientists believe that heredity and random errors in the developmental process are responsible for most of these problems.
There are, however, rare situations in which a woman who is unaware of her pregnancy may receive a very large number of abdominal x -rays over a short period. This is important for many medical decisions, such as drug prescriptions and nuclear medicine procedures, as well as x -rays.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (COG) recommends that pregnant women maintain good oral health by keeping up with such routine dental procedures as X -rays, teeth cleaning, cavity-filling, and root canals. It's a still a good idea to use a leaded apron to protect your abdomen to minimize your baby's radiation exposure when you've been having other parts X-rayed.
There are some kinds of X -rays (such as those used to treat disease) that may expose your baby to high doses of radiation, which can cause miscarriage or birth defects as well as some cancers in later life. Your healthcare professional can help you decide whether your treatment can wait until you've had your baby.
In weeks 11 through 17, at the 5-10 rad dose, “Potential effects are scientifically uncertain and probably too subtle to be clinically detectable.” Though ACR notes that you can have IQ damage over the 10 rad mark, increasing with exposure.
An unborn baby exposed to over 10 rad could be at risk of developing eye problems, learning disability, childhood cancer, and birth defects (4). In most of the cases, the unborn baby receives a fraction of the rad, with minimal risk.
Ultrasounds use sound waves to see your organs and blood flow. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and computer software to produce highly detailed images of organs and structures in your body.
X -rays use a small dose of radiation, usually in the form of light or radio waves, to create black and white images of the inside of the body. Computed tomography (CT, or CAT scan) puts together X -rays taken from multiple angles to create more detailed 3D images.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are known to be on the safer side. Even though MRIs are not considered risky, organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recommend using them sparingly, and only when medically necessary.
These tests have a variety of purposes, such as diagnosing broken bones, detecting tumors, or examining your brain, spinal cord, pelvis, abdomen, or chest after a severe trauma. Here's the problem: CT Scans, X -rays, and tests that include X -rays all use ionizing radiation.
Even though the amount of radiation in these tests is very small, and usually won't cause harm to a fetus, there are still some risks, such as birth defects. That's why your provider may recommend tests involving X -rays even if you're pregnant. When your health is in jeopardy, and ultrasounds or MRIs aren't enough or are unavailable, it's usually recommended that you get the test you need.
Your provider will go over the pros and cons of getting the test. It also depends on the part of your body that needs imaging. They may have extra precautions they take for pregnant women, such as covering your belly with a lead apron to protect the fetus from radiation exposure.