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.
Depending on the circumstances, it might be possible to postpone the X-ray or modify it to reduce the amount of radiation. If you had a diagnostic X-ray before you knew you were pregnant, talk to your health care provider.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, x-rays are generally safe during pregnancy, but there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this issue. Studies have been conflicting and, therefore, x-rays should only be done when the benefits outweigh the risks.
X-rays can give your health care provider important and even life-saving information about numerous medical conditions. Not all x-rays are the same, but most pose little exposure to the uterus and developing a fetus.
X-ray examinations on the arms, legs, or chest do not expose your reproductive organs to the direct beam. However, x-rays of the torso, such as the abdomen, stomach, pelvis, lower back, and kidneys, have a greater chance of exposure to the uterus.
According to the American College of Radiology, no single diagnostic x-ray has a radiation dose significant enough to cause adverse effects in a developing embryo or fetus. Some common diagnostic procedures include dental, chest, CT scan (head/chest), and abdominal view.
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.
But sometimes, because of a particular medical condition, your physician may feel that a diagnostic x-ray of your abdomen or lower torso is needed. The risk to you and your unborn child is very small, and the benefit of finding out about your medical condition is far greater.
If you are pregnant, the doctor may decide that it would be best to cancel the x-ray examination, to postpone it, or to modify it to reduce the amount of radiation. Or, depending on your medical needs, and realizing that the risk is very small, the doctor may feel that it is best to proceed with the x-ray as planned.
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 to prevent damage to your genes that could be passed on and cause harmful effects in your future descendants. It is a good idea to keep a record of the x-ray examinations you and your family have had taken, so you can provide this kind of information accurately.
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 vast majority of pregnant women will not even think about having an X-ray in pregnancy, particularly as we are able to use ultrasound to see the baby.
Emergency dental X-rays, X-rays for trauma or broken bones are other common times when X-ray imaging comes into question in pregnancy. The risks of an X-ray in pregnancy vary with the weeks of gestation and the dose, which is measured in rads or milligrays (may).
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 youcanhave IQ damage over the 10 rad mark, increasing with exposure.
Doses less than 5 rad are always considered causing no issues at any point in pregnancy. If you need an X-ray, at any point in pregnancy, it is probably safe for you to have one. Be sure to take proper shielding precautions and let the X-ray tech know that you are pregnant, even if you think it is obvious.
The level or dose of radiation used varies, depending on the type of X-ray and the equipment used. If your healthcare professional recommends an X-ray, the lowest possible dose of radiation will be used.
However, if a pregnant woman has an X-ray and is exposed to radiation there is a very small increased risk that the baby may go on to develop cancer in childhood. Also, the dose of radiation in dental X-rays is so low there's virtually no risk to the unborn baby.
However, in very rare cases, the angle of the X-ray beam needed to take a dental X-ray may affect the pelvic area. If you need a dental X-ray like this that can 't wait until you've had your baby, your dentist may cover your abdomen with a lead apron while the X-ray is carried out.
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.
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.
An abdominal x-ray will expose your baby to an average dose of 1.4 may, still well below the critical level. We are exposed to radiation everyday by the sun, the materials in the surrounding buildings, and in what we do.
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.
Treatment To help diagnose and treat musculoskeletal injuries, orthopedic surgeons often recommend x-rays. If you experience an injury while you are pregnant, you may be concerned about the impact that radiation from an x-ray will have on your unborn child.
It has been shown that the amount of radiation received from a single diagnostic x-ray is so small that it is unlikely to pose a risk to a developing baby. They can provide your doctor with important and potentially life-saving information about many medical conditions and are often used to detect bone fractures and dislocated joints after falls and accidents.
You will then be asked to hold still while the machine briefly sends electromagnetic waves (radiation) through your body, exposing the film to reflect your internal structure. These imaging studies are not always practical or available, however, and may not offer your doctor the same information that can be routinely obtained with an x-ray.
For example, the approximate amount of radiation that an unborn baby receives from the more commonly ordered diagnostic x-rays includes: You would have to x-ray your arm or leg more than 5,000 times in order to reach 5 rad of exposure to your unborn baby.
Although there is very little risk from a single diagnostic x-ray, steps should always be taken to help minimize a developing baby's exposure to radiation. Even if you are not pregnant, wearing a lead apron will help protect you from the risk of genetic damage to your reproductive organs.
If you are around radiation at work, wear a film badge to monitor the amount of exposure you receive. Depending on your medical condition or injury, it may be acceptable to postpone an x-ray until after your child is born.