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Can You Get an X-Ray While Pregnant?

last year5 min read
Last updated: Jan 23 2023

If you need to get an x-ray while pregnant, you may be wondering how it will impact you and your growing baby. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here.

Can You Get an X-Ray While Pregnant?

We’re going to dive into the details of when an x-ray might be a good idea when you’re pregnant — and how to keep yourself and your baby as safe as possible.

In this article: 📝

  • What is exactly is an x-ray?
  • What we know about getting an x-ray while pregnant
  • How to keep things safer during an x-ray while pregnant
  • How many x-rays are safe in pregnancy?

What is exactly is an x-ray?

X-rays are an important medical tool that use electromagnetic radiation to diagnose and treat various health conditions.

Electromagnetic radiation is all around us. In fact, we encounter it every day in the light spectrum we are able to see.

So what makes an x-ray special?

Basically, the type of radiation used in x-rays — namely ionizing radiation — is very high energy that can pass through solid surfaces.

This is a big deal, as it has allowed us to travel into our bodies and, with the help of a device called an x-ray detector, create a picture of what’s happening inside.

With this tool, we are able to diagnose and monitor new and existing health conditions.

Plus, it’s offered us lifesaving treatments in the form of radiation therapy that can destroy cancerous cells.

So, all-in-all, thank goodness we have this technology.

But what happens when you’re pregnant? Is it okay to get an x-ray then?

Growing babies are more at risk of radiation exposure, and are particularly vulnerable during the first few weeks of your pregnancy.

But it’s not as simple as avoiding x-rays when you’re pregnant.

Unfortunately, our bodies don’t necessarily take a break from injury and illness when we’re sick.

And that can mean that we need medical help along the way.

In many cases, the benefits of having an x-ray outweigh the risks, even when we’re pregnant.

What we know about getting an x-ray while pregnant

The official word from the American Academy of Family Physicians is that having a single diagnostic x-ray is generally okay while pregnant.

The amount of radiation in an x-ray is not great enough to pose a serious risk to you or your baby.

(When you add up the numbers, the danger zone is anything exceeding five rad. And, as a measure, a two-view chest x-ray is only 0.00007 rad, meaning you’re still well within the safe limit.)

Other research findings back this up, saying that the radiation used in diagnostic x-rays is far below the amount that might lead to birth differences.

But that doesn’t mean that x-rays are danger-free.

They do come with some risk of damaging tissue in your body.

And this risk increases the more exposure you have to radiation over your lifetime.

How to keep things safer during an x-ray while pregnant

Rule Number One: It’s important to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Also, let them know if you’ve had any other x-rays recently, so they can make an informed decision about your care.

The type of x-ray you have, and how often you are exposed to radiation, both come into play here.

Abdominal and lower torso x-rays while pregnant

The word from the FDA is to be particularly careful when it comes to x-rays of the abdomen and lower torso, as these areas are in the same region as your reproductive organs.

Chest x-rays while pregnant

Having a chest x-ray when pregnant should be on the safe side.

As should having an x-ray of your head and limbs.

Dental x-ray while pregnant

And what about if your teeth are giving you trouble?

The American Dental Association and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologist both say that having a dental x-ray while pregnant is generally safe.

So if you suddenly find yourself with an emergency dental procedure in your pregnancy, it’s usually okay to go ahead.

Just tell your dentist that you’re pregnant and how far along you are so that they can make everything as safe as possible.

Cancer treatment while pregnant

The amount of radiation that is needed for cancer treatment is above the levels that are safe during pregnancy.

Because of the links to birth differences, growth and development challenges, and pregnancy loss, doctors don’t use radiation treatment during pregnancy.

How many x-rays are safe in pregnancy?

There is no hard and fast rule here, but the safest bet is to limit your radiation exposure as much as possible while still accessing the treatment you need.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of the x-rays you’ve had, including the number of times and type.

You can then feed this info to your doctor, who will be able to assess if an x-ray is a good idea for you right now.

Having any medical treatment done when you’re pregnant can be scary.

If you’d like some support through this, reach out to your Peanut community. You don’t have to do this alone.

All the best, mama. ❤️

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