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Radiation & Pregnancy

What are the risks to my unborn child from dental, mammogram, chest, extremity, head, or CT exams that involve x rays, but don't directly expose my abdomen?

There will be no harm to your unborn child from radiation exposure when x rays are taken of areas other than the abdomen because the x-ray beam is focused only on the area of interest to minimize radiation doses to other areas of the body.

Is it necessary to put a lead apron over my abdomen for x-ray exams?

Some state regulations will require the lead apron when it will not interfere with the exam being done. In reality, with current x-ray exams, it is not likely the unborn child would be exposed unless the abdomen is directly exposed—lead apron or not. If you had an x-ray exam of an area outside the abdomen and forgot to ask for a lead apron, it's okay, the unborn child received little, if any, radiation exposure.

Is it okay to stand next to an airport baggage-screening machine?

Yes. The x-ray machines at the airport are shielded. There is no radiation exposure of passengers or the unborn child when standing next to the baggage-screening machines.

Is it risky to fly?

Not because of radiation exposure. The additional radiation exposure from flying is too small to cause harm to the unborn child.

Is it safe to stand close to a microwave oven while it is operating?

Yes. Current models of microwave ovens for general use are shielded to reduce leakage to very low or even zero levels. A microwave emits electromagnetic radiation at a lower frequency than x rays and other ionizing radiation.

Is it safe to use my cell phone?

Yes. A cell phone emits electromagnetic (EM) radiation of moderate frequency (which is lower than the frequency of x rays). EM exposure does not increase risk of harmful effects to the unborn child.

Is it okay to have an MRI exam for back pain?

Yes. There is no evidence that a standard diagnostic MRI (magnetic resonance image) performed on a woman who is pregnant will cause harmful effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies have strict limits on MRI field strengths at diagnostic levels.

Are there any risks to the unborn child from radiation emitted from computers?

No. Today, it would be difficult to find a computer (the monitor actually) that exposes the user to large or even moderate amounts of electric or magnetic field radiation. It is safe to use a computer when you are pregnant.  If you are using a laptop, the answer is still no to the question of risks from radiation; however, pregnant users are cautioned against setting the laptop on their abdomen during pregnancy because of heating. Learn more on the Laptop and Television Radiation Pregnancy page.

How long should I wait to try to become pregnant after x-ray exams that have exposed my ovaries or my husband's testes? Can I become sterile after having x rays?

There is no evidence of effects on the ovaries or sperm at radiation doses used in diagnostic x-ray procedures. Radiation doses from routine medical x rays are too small to affect sterility or have an effect on a future pregnancy. Therefore, you do not need to wait after diagnostic x-ray exams before trying to become pregnant.