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Radiology Imaging and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know


When you’re pregnant and your doctor recommends a form of radiology imaging or refers you to a diagnostic imaging center, you may have some questions. Aren’t X-rays and radiology potentially harmful to unborn children? The answer is not as definitive as you may think. Read on to learn more about safe radiology practices during pregnancy.

It takes a substantial dose of radiation to induce a risk of birth defects.

Routine diagnostic exams like x-rays only utilize a low dose of radiation, so it’s highly unlikely that your baby will be exposed to threatening levels of radiation during simple procedures.

Even so, most doctors take extreme precautions when it comes to pregnant women, especially during the first trimester. In general, pregnant women will not undergo MRI radiology unless it is absolutely necessary. Your team of health care providers will consult to decide on what course of treatment is best for both you and your baby.

Radiology imaging that does not involve exposure to the lower pelvic region is generally considered safe.

Diagnostic imaging performed on parts of the body not in close proximity to the womb pose a low risk of radiation exposure to the baby. This is especially important for women who are also concerned about breast cancer screening. Around one in eight, or 12%, of all women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, and there were about 231,840 new cases in 2015 — along with an additional 60,290 cases of non-invasive breast cancer as well.

The type of 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) used for early detection of breast cancer is unlikely to interfere with your child’s development. However, it’s best to always talk to your doctor about safe radiology practice if you’re pregnant or even think that there’s a remote chance that you might be pregnant.

Radiology imaging can be used to save lives, but it’s important to understand the risks involved. There is likely nothing more important to a pregnant woman than the health and well-being of her baby, and while irresponsible or unnecessary radiation exposure can result in serious birth defects, doctors and radiologists will work with a pregnant patient to ensure the health and safety of both lives.

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