Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine

Pregnant women may be administered radioactive materials for the treatment of various medical conditions while they are pregnant. Some of these radioactive materials may be administered before the patient knows that she is pregnant. Nearly all of the types of radioactivity that will be administered for a nuclear medicine exam will also expose the unborn child to radiation.

In most cases, even though the unborn child will be exposed, it is not enough radiation dose to cause harmful effects. In a few cases, however, the type and amount of radioactivity and the age of the unborn child combine such that there might be harmful effects. The most frequent case of this occurring is when the woman has thyroid problems and is given radioactive iodine after the ninth week of pregnancy. Luckily, though, by the ninth week, most women know they are pregnant and can discuss with their physician the need for the radioactive iodine exam, whether the exam can wait seven more months, and whether there are possible harmful effects for the unborn child.