Is X-ray safe during pregnancy?

X-ray is a form of radiant energy that can penetrate the body to show the pictures of internal organs. X-rays help in diagnosis of several diseases.

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Is it safe to receive x-rays during pregnancy?

There was a time when people were scared of getting an x-ray done during pregnancy. It is true high amount of radiation can lead to mental retardation or abnormalities of the eye. Now a day there is no danger in getting an x-ray done during pregnancy. The latest theories by scientists claim that x-rays during pregnancy is generally safe for the fetus

The level of safety depends on the type of x-ray and the amount of radiation that is exposed. Most x-rays during pregnancy do not expose the fetus to high radiation. Doctors take an x-ray for a pregnant woman only when it becomes an entire necessity.

Most x-rays that are required for the arms, legs, chest or teeth do not expose the reproductive organs to radiation. Low dose radiation on stomach and abdomen will have no harmful effect on the fetus. But x-rays of the pelvis, lower abdomen and back, kidneys definitely have a greater exposure of the radiation on the uterus.

Diagnostic X-rays and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the period of anxiety and excitement in a woman’s life.   Special care is required with regard to food, exercise and restrictions of smoking, alcohol and certain medications. Diagnostic x-rays and other medical ration procedures of the abdominal area also deserves extra attention

Diagnostic x-rays give some important information about a person’s problem. In normal cases x-ray of the abdomen will not be needed. But there are times when the doctor feels that an x-ray of the abdomen is required. At this time the risk to the baby much less and the advantage of knowing the suspected problem is much greater. On the other hand the danger of not having the x-ray will be more than the risk of radiation. When the doctor knows about the pregnancy he will try and do the x-ray with low radiation.

Which x-rays can affect the baby during pregnancy?

The x-rays of the mother’s lower abdomen, hips, pelvis and kidneys are likely to affect the unborn child. They are of little concern, but all depends on the reason how important is the x-ray for the health and treatment of the mother eg. a hip fracture from a fall will definitely require an x-ray.

Most of the X-ray exams such as arms, legs, head, teeth, or chest won’t expose your reproductive organs to radiation, and a leaded apron and collar can be worn to block any scattered radiation. The exception is abdominal X-rays, which expose your abdomen and your baby to radiation. High dose of radiation can cause changes in a baby’s rapidly growing cells. It’s possible that these changes could slightly increase a baby’s risk of birth defects or certain cancers, like leukemia later in life.


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It’s fine and safe to get an X-ray during pregnancy and depends on the type of X-ray you need and exactly how much radiation you’re going to be exposed to. Most diagnostic X-rays don’t expose the fetus to high levels of radiation and they may cause problem. It is true, that the exposure is to radiation and risk could be to your baby. While fetal exposure over 10 rads has been shown to increase the risks for mental retardation and eye abnormalities. But it’s rare for a single X-ray or may be group of diagnostic X-rays to exceed 5 rads.

During the normal course of a pregnancy you and your baby are exposed to about 90 – 100 millirads of natural radiation from the sun and earth. The risk from diagnostic X-rays is low. Experts recommend that women postpone getting unnecessary X-rays until after giving birth. But, it is suggested that if your doctor feels X-rays are needed for your particular medical situation, you should ease your mind to know that the amount of radiation to your baby will receive will most likely be well within the safe range. Make sure the technician knows that you are pregnant when you have an X-ray that leads to treat properly.

If you receive radiation for cancer therapy before learning you were pregnant, then talk to your oncologist about the amount of radiation your baby may have received, and ask for a referral to a teratogen specialist. Another way is talk to your supervisor about ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure. That you will treated specially of wearing a special king of film badge that monitors the amount of radiation you receive. Or you can even wear a badge on your stomach under your safety apron and the badges can be analyzed as needed to make sure you and your baby are safe.

How does radiation of the x-ray affect the development of the fetus in the womb?

Radiation before the birth of the baby can increase the chances of diseases like cancer in later life. Since unborn babies are sensitive to radiation it is better to postpone it or try some other method for diagnosis.

The radiation exposure during the first couple of months as the embryo consists of just a few cells and there is a risk of miscarriage.

Between 2-18 months of pregnancy the embryo turns to a fetus and there can be chances of brain damage with the impact of radiation.

From 12 weeks to full time the baby is fully developed and there are less chances of any effect of radiation but that does not mean that it is full clear and safe. X-ray should be taken only if there is a dire necessity.

Ultrasound is better than X-ray

Ultrasound imaging process uses radiation that is very different from x-rays. Ultrasound is commonly used during pregnancy as there are no chances of harm to the unborn baby. The same goes with MRI.   Ultrasound which is also known as sonography is the method of producing images through high frequency sound waves. Radiation is not used in sonography. Hence this method is much safer during pregnancy as it does not use ionizing radiation which can harm the fetus during pregnancy. Presently CT or nuclear imaging is preferred by doctors to know the status of the unborn baby.

Ultrasound, also called sonography, is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images that lead to diagnosis and treatment of many diseases and medical conditions. Radiation is not used in ultrasound testing, but is used in x-rays and CT scans. Ultrasound gives a clearer and sound image of the foetus during pregnancy. Sonography is normally done two to three times during the complete pregnancy period.

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