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’s no easy answers here.
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: 📝
- Can you get an X-ray while pregnant?
- Does an X-ray affect pregnancy?
- How to avoid radiation during pregnancy
- How many X-rays are safe in pregnancy?
Can you get an X-ray while pregnant?
To better answer this, it’s helpful to understand what exactly an X-ray is.
Basically, X-rays are an important medical tool that use electromagnetic radiation to diagnose and treat various health conditions.
And electromagnetic radiation is all around us—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 create a picture of what’s happening inside—with the help of a device called an X-ray detector.
With this tool, we’re 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.
What happens if you get an X-ray while pregnant?
Growing babies are more at risk of radiation exposure and are particularly vulnerable during the first few weeks of your pregnancy.
This is because your baby’s cells are busy dividing and growing into specialized cells and tissue.
And exposure to radiation could cause changes within these cells, potentially leading to abnormal brain function, cancer, or even deformities.
Still, our bodies don’t necessarily take a break from injury and illness when we’re pregnant.
And that can mean needing medical help along the way.
Generally, an X-ray while pregnant is not recommended unless it’s an emergency.
Your best ally for discerning when a situation warrants one during pregnancy? Your doctor.
Yes, the best move you can do is clearly advise your doctor, even if there’s a small chance of being pregnant.
Does an X-ray affect pregnancy?
So, are X-rays safe during pregnancy?
Well, the official word from the FDA is that having an X-ray of the abdominal area deserves some extra attention during pregnancy.
Generally speaking, most clinicians will advise a pregnant woman waits until after pregnancy to have an abdominal x-ray. However, if the doctor feels it is an emergency, the risk of not having one could be much greater.
And research findings back this up, showing that the radiation used in diagnostic X-rays are often 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.
So much so that the risk of your baby developing cancer from an X-ray invitro is 2% greater in later life.
Still, it would require you having a radiation dose equal to about 500 X-rays of your chest!
This risk would, of course, increase the more exposure you have to radiation over your lifetime.
How to avoid radiation during pregnancy
So, what are some X-ray in pregnancy guidelines to help keep baby safe?
Rule Number One: It’s important to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you might be.
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 FDA advises pregnant women to be particularly careful when it comes to X-rays of the abdomen, stomach, lower back, pelvis or kidneys.
These areas may expose baby directly to the X-ray beam.
Chest X-rays during pregnancy
Having a chest X-ray while pregnant shouldn’t expose your baby to direct radiation, so tends to be safe enough.
The same goes for having an X-ray of your head and limbs.
Still, always consult with your doctor first and let them know you are pregnant.
Dental X-ray while pregnant
And what about if your teeth are giving you trouble during pregnancy? Don’t worry, this is a common pregnancy issue.
The American Dental Association and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists both say that having a dental X-ray during pregnancy 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.
Treating cancer during pregnancy
Cancer in pregnancy is rare, and doctors usually avoid using radiation therapy until after the baby is born.
How many X-rays are safe in pregnancy?
There’s 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. ❤️