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.
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.
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. With dental x-rays, there is hardly any exposure to any part of the body except the teeth.
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.
Generally speaking, it is safe to have an x-ray while pregnant when the benefits of an x-ray outweigh the risks. However, there are a few different factors to consider when determining the risks, including amount of radiation, the area of the body you are having x-rayed, and the importance of the x-ray to your health.
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.
X-rays of your abdomen will probably put your unborn baby in direct contact with the x-ray beam. At present, it is not known for sure if the small amounts of radiation used in medical x-ray are enough to harm a baby, so doctors try to avoid giving pregnant women x-rays of the abdomen.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the risks of x-ray radiation to your baby are very small. At UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging, we are dedicated to giving our patients the best care possible.
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. 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. There's always the possibility that research could identify harmful effects in the future.
Here's the problem: CT Scans, X-rays, and tests that include X-rays all use ionizing radiation. 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.
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.