X-Rays during Pregnancy: Good or Bad?

So you've heard getting an x-ray during pregnancy can harm your baby. Well in some cases not getting an x-ray can harm you, the mother, more than it can harm your baby.

Remember: A healthy mom means a healthy baby.

Is it safe to receive x-rays during pregnancy?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, x-rays are generally safe during pregnancy, but there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this issue. Studies have been conflicting and therefore x-rays are best avoided during pregnancy if possible.

However, x-rays can give your doctor important and even life saving information about any medical conditions. Like many things, x-rays can have risks as well as benefits. It is best to allow your doctor to make the best decision for you and your baby's health; sometimes the x-ray can wait.

Are all x-rays safe?

Not all X-rays are the same, but most pose little exposure to the uterus and developing fetus. With dental x-rays there is hardly any exposure to anything but the teeth.

X-ray examinations on the arms, legs, or chest do not expose your reproductive organs to the direct beam. However with x-rays of the torso such as the abdomen, stomach, pelvis, lower back and kidneys there is more chance of exposure to the uterus.

It is always important that you let the doctor or dentist know that you are pregnant so they can make an educated decision on what is best for you and your baby.

What are the chances that my baby will have a deformity if I have x-rays during pregnancy?

The chances that your baby will come out with a deformity due to x-rays are very small. The doses used in common diagnostic x-rays are no where near high enough to cause birth defects. Five rads is believed to be the minimum exposure compatible with significant fetal risks. The estimated exposure of x-rays include:

  • Dental: less that 0.02 rads Hip film -0.02 rads
  • Chest x-rays (two views): 0.02-0.07 rads Mammogram -0.02 rads
  • Abdominal view: 0.10 rads CT scan head/chest -1 rad
  • IVP: less than 1 rad CT scan pelvimetry -0.25 rads

*Always let your doctor and dentist know that you are pregnant.

*If the doctor says that you must have x-rays despite the fact that you are pregnant, trust them to make the best choice for you and your baby.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association