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Can You Have An X Ray When Pregnant

author
Brent Mccoy
• Wednesday, 09 December, 2020
• 8 min read

Exposure to high-dose radiation two to eight weeks after conception might increase the risk of fetal growth restriction or birth defects. Exposure between weeks 8 and 16 might increase the risk of a learning or intellectual disability.

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Contents

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.

At UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging, we want to give you all the information you need to work with your doctor and make the best decision for you AND your baby. And it is important to keep in mind that the benefit of allowing your doctor to have a clear image of your medical condition most likely outweighs any potential risk to you or your baby.

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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.

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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.

Also, the dose of radiation in dental X -rays is so low there's virtually no risk to the unborn baby. 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 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.

The higher the level of radiation, the greater the risk is to your baby. Most x -rays, such as dental and chest x -rays, will not expose your baby to high enough levels of radiation to cause a problem.

A fetus is more at risk from exposure than adults because its cells are dividing and growing rapidly. If x -rays cause changes to these cells then there is a slight increase in the chance of birth defects and certain illnesses, like leukemia.

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Health Canada measures radiation from diagnostic x -rays with units called milligray or may. A dental or chest ray will expose your baby to less than .01 average dose may, far below the risk level.

During your entire pregnancy, your baby will likely be exposed to roughly .5mGy just by the surrounding environment. Although the risk from X -rays is low, your doctor may advise you to postpone getting unnecessary X -rays until after your baby is born.

If your doctor feels X -rays are needed for your particular medical situation, don’t worry. The amount of radiation your baby will receive is likely to be well within the safe range.

On the day of the test, make sure the radiographer knows that you are pregnant, so she can properly shield you. If you're around radiation at work, talk to your employer about ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure.

Don’t forget to download our free app for a day-by-day guide to your pregnancy. My Pregnancy & Baby Today gives you all the expert advice you need, right at your fingertips.

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