X-Rays During Pregnancy

What are X-rays?

An X-ray is the use of energy called radiation to make pictures of the inside of your body. As the X-rays pass through your body, different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation and show up in different shades of black and white on film or a computer screen.

When are they used?

X-rays are used to help diagnose many diseases and problems. They can show problems like broken bones, dislocated joints, tumors, or cavities in your teeth.

Should I have X-rays while I am pregnant?

Most X-rays give very small doses of radiation. However, having a lot of X-rays while you are pregnant can hurt an unborn baby. The X-rays might affect the baby’s genes, cause birth defects, or cause a disease like leukemia. The baby is at highest risk between the 8th and 15th weeks of pregnancy.

If you need an X-ray, the technologist may ask when you had your last menstrual period. If there is a possibility that you may be pregnant, you may need to get a pregnancy test before having an X-ray. Even if only a small amount of radiation may be absorbed by your baby, you should try to avoid getting X-rays when you are or might be pregnant. You might be able to have a scan that doesn’t use X-rays. For example, ultrasound scans use sound waves, or an MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves.

If you do have an X-ray when you are or may be pregnant, the technologist will put a lead apron over your belly for protection. However, this may not be possible if the apron will cover the area that needs to be seen with the X-rays.

Going through airport scanners during pregnancy does not seem to cause any risk to your baby or the pregnancy.

Ask your healthcare provider any questions you have about the use of X-rays during pregnancy.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-06
Last reviewed: 2014-09-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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