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Is that a laptop on your lap?

Every so often, a news headline mentions the safety of routinely working with computers. Recently, the headline isn’t so much about the desktop computer we have at work and/or at home, it’s about the laptop computer and whether it’s safe to use during pregnancy. Fair question – just what do we know about this?

There is no radiation issue associated with using a laptop or any computer during your pregnancy. Since laptops do emit a fair amount of heat, though, not putting them on your abdomen is prudent, but using them on your lap (your thighs) is fine. Consumer protection laws were passed in the 1970’s by the Food and Drug Administration limiting the amounts and types of radiation emissions from these devices.

The term radiation is a broad term that covers a large number of wave energies (the electromagnetic spectrum) to which we may be exposed. On one end of the energy spectrum is ionizing radiation, i.e., x rays. On the other end is nonionizing radiation. Computers emit nonionizing radiation. We are exposed to this type of radiation from numerous sources—cell phones, electric blankets, microwaves, AM/FM radio, etc.

There is no measurable ionizing radiation (x rays) emitted from a computer monitor. The nonionizing radiation or electromagnetic radiation that may be emitted does not represent a reproductive risk either. There are many studies showing that birth defects or miscarriage is not associated with working at a computer.

Although radiation isn’t an issue, one should be aware of the possibility of eye strain, back problems, etc from sitting in front of the screen for long periods. Periodic breaks from the working on a computer are prudent whether you are pregnant or not.

The same is true of watching television during pregnancy – it will not cause harm to the baby as a result of radiation exposure. Televisions are constructed such that radiation exposure, if any, is kept at a minimum. At a distance of several feet from the tube, radiation cannot be measured.