Should Pregnant Women Worry About X-Rays?

Pregnancy is the time to take good care of yourself and the little one inside your womb. There are many things to remember and follow during pregnancy, such as eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and other intoxicating drugs, being careful about the prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take. A woman should also get proper prenatal care visits to her doctor during pregnancy. Regular ultrasounds are a part of routine prenatal care, but at times, there is a need for an X-ray while you’re expecting, too. X-rays are generally recommended during pregnancy just for investigating any urgent health issue. It is essential to understand any risks that radiation can cause during your pregnancy to you and especially to your baby. Taking simple precautions can help in minimizing the exposure of your little one to harmful rays during a diagnostic x-ray or other radiation procedure.

Diagnostic x rays help the doctor find important lifesaving information about a person’s medical condition. But like many other radiation procedures, x-rays have benefits and specific risks. They should be conducted under the proper surveillance of the doctor. No pregnant woman should probably be recommended to have an abdominal x-ray during pregnancy. But, due to any particular medical condition, your physician might feel the necessity of conducting a diagnostic x-ray of your abdomen or lower torso. If this happens, do not get upset. The risks followed by x-rays can be reduced by telling your condition to the doctor. The doctor might also cancel or postpone it or modify it to reduce the amount of radiation.

We will let you understand the issues concerning exposure to x-rays during pregnancy. Moreover, we suggest that any pregnant woman who has to go through a radiology test or an x-ray should consult her healthcare provider to get complete knowledge about its effect.

What are the typical kinds of imaging tests?

  • Ultrasounds – This scan is a diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves for producing an image of the internal organs. A screening ultrasound is often done during pregnancy to check your baby’s growth and verify the due date.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – It is a medical procedure that uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and computer software to create more explicit pictures of the inside of your body. It gives highly detailed images of your organs and other internal structures. MRIs are prescribed to pregnant women to view the placenta, baby’s brain, airway, lungs, and abdomen.
  • X-Ray – This medical procedure uses a small dose of radiation in light or radio waves to create black and white images of the inside of the body.
  • Computed tomography (CT, or CAT scan) – CT scan is a standard imaging procedure that uses the computer to combine several x-ray images to produce cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. These are generally not recommended to pregnant women unless the benefits of the CAT scan outweigh the potential risk.

What is the role of conducting X-ray imaging?

X-rays are the common widely used diagnostic imaging technique, and it helps doctors get important potentially lifesaving information about several medical conditions. X-rays are also often used for detecting bone fractures and dislocated joints due to falls and accidents. During x-rays, the technician places the required body part between the x-ray machine and photographic film. The patient is then asked to be still until the device sends the electromagnetic waves through the body to reflect the internal structure.

When pregnant, the doctor uses imaging procedures that do not emit any harmful radiation to diagnose any particular injury or condition, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and ultrasound. The following imaging studies (MRI and ultrasounds) are not always practical for getting the exact results. They may not offer the doctor the same information easily obtained through an x-ray examination.

How many x-ray radiations are considered safe during pregnancy?

The amount of x-ray radiation absorbed by the body is measured in rad or its fraction, milliard (mrad). One rad (rd) is equivalent to 1000 millirad (mrad). According to many studies, exposing an unborn baby to more than 10 rad increases the chance of having congenital disabilities, learning disabilities, eye problems, childhood cancers, etc., in the babies. The musculoskeletal x-rays are the ones that are not directed to the abdomen or torso. The abdominal or torso area is much weaker during pregnancy and exposes the developing baby to only a small fraction of a rad (rd).

The approximate amount of radiation that an unborn baby obtains from the commonly ordered investigative x-rays includes –

  • Less than one millirad for an x-ray of the upper or lower extremities The lower extremities are the part of the body, including the leg, ankle, and foot. The upper extremities are the body parts, including the arm, wrist, and hand.
  • Less than 100 millirad for the chest x-ray
  • Around 40 to 240 millirad for the x-rays of the pelvis area
  • 200 to 245 millirad for the abdominal x-ray
  • 51 to 370 millirad for the x-rays of hip and femur (thighbone) area

It’s a rare case that a single diagnostic x-ray procedure exceeds 5 rad. It will require more than 5000 times of x-ray of your arm or legs to reach 5 rad of exposure to your unborn baby. Moreover, more than 50 chest x-rays get to 5 rad.

What kind of X-rays affects your unborn child?

Most of the x-rays examinations, such as those of the arms, legs, head, teeth, or chest, don’t expose your reproductive organs to the direct x-ray beam. As a result, such procedures do not cause any harm or risk to the unborn child. However, during the lower torso – abdomen, stomach, pelvis, lower back, or kidneys x-rays; the baby in the womb might get exposed to the direct x-ray beam and can be more concerning.

What are the possible harmful effects your baby can have in the womb?

The radiation used in diagnostic x-ray procedures might harm your unborn child. Your unborn child is susceptible to the effects, including radiation, certain drugs, excess alcohol, and infection. Your baby’s cells rapidly divide and grow into specialized cells and tissues. Radiations and other agents cause changes in the cells and might cause the risks of congenital disabilities or certain illnesses, such as leukemia, later in life to your baby. These congenital disabilities or other risky diseases might also occur if the mother is exposed to any known harmful agent during pregnancy. Doctors also believe that heredity and random errors during the development process are also responsible for the problems among new-borns.

The harm on the developing baby depends on –

  • The radiation dose – smaller amounts are safer for your baby.
  • The age of the fetus – the more developed your fetus is in your pregnancy, the better.
  • Where the x-ray is administered – diagnostic x-rays of your abdomen or pelvis, or where the radiation is carried in your blood are at higher risk to your baby than other x-rays (such as dental, chest, arm, legs, etc.)

Depending upon the radiation and the development stage of your baby may result in other serious issues such as –

  • Failure of the embryo to implant
  • Miscarriage
  • Abnormalities of the central nervous system
  • Congenital malformations
  • Slower than average growth
  • Physical Deformity
  • Cataracts
  • Childhood cancer

What x-ray precautions can you take while you are pregnant?

To understand the risk associated with x-ray radiations, every pregnant woman must get proper consultation from their healthcare provider. Your doctors help you safely proceed and get assured throughout your pregnancy period. Even though there is little evidence that the diagnostic X-Rays harm your baby, your doctors are trained in such a way to reduce your exposure to radiation during pregnancy.

  1. Getting proper dental care is essential during pregnancy. During dental x-rays, your mouth only gets exposed to the radiations, and thus they cause a minimal risk to your little one. Dentists can cover your torso with an apron that protects your baby from radiations for extra safer measures. Be sure and let your dentist know that you are pregnant while scheduling your appointments.
  2. If you have injured your arm, leg, finger, toe, or any other part during pregnancy by chance, you might need an x-ray to assess whether it is broken. Also, you might need a mammogram (X-ray of the breast) at times. All these procedures are marked safe if the doctor takes proper care at all stages during pregnancy. Inform your doctor about your pregnancy condition so that they can use a lead apron or any other steps to take care of your abdominal and pelvic area.

Here are a few guidelines that you may follow to protect your child from x-ray radiations during pregnancy –

  • The most important thing is to let your x-ray physician know that you are pregnant. This critical information helps make medical decisions such as medical prescriptions, nuclear medicine procedures, x-rays, etc. Also, remember that it is essential in the early weeks of your pregnancy.
  • Sometimes, a woman might have mistaken the symptoms of pregnancy with the symptoms of any other disease. If you are going from any pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, fatigue, etc., tell your doctor or x-ray technologist before going for the x-ray of your lower abdomen. It is because you might go for a pregnancy test before that.
  • A pregnant woman must not hold a child while being x-rayed. Always be sure that you wear a lead apron if it will not interfere with the body region that is being x-rayed. A lead apron will help protect your reproductive organs and prevent damage to your genes that could have caused harmful effects on your baby. Wearing a lead apron even if you are not pregnant helps to protect you from the risk of genetic damage to your reproductive organs.
  • A pregnant woman around any radiation should wear a film badge for monitoring the amount of exposure. The doctor should adequately analyze your film badge to ensure that you and your baby are safe.
  • You can also talk to your x-ray examiner to reduce or eliminate the dose of radiation by creating a shield for yourself from the radiation source.
  • Whenever you are advised to have an x-ray, tell your doctor about any similar x-rays you have already had recently. It might be possible that you won’t be required to have another x-ray examination. You must always record your x-ray examinations to provide accurate information to your doctor.
  • Feel free to consult your doctor for time and understand the exact need for having an x-ray examination. You must know the reason for the x-rays requested in your particular case.

Making the right decision during pregnancy: Consult Digibaby 3D/4D Ultrasound

At Digibaby 3D/4D Ultrasound, we help pregnant women get a chance to see their baby in a live motion during pregnancy. We are dedicated to giving the best possible care to the patients, and our team makes sure that the services we provide are beneficial for your baby and do not cause any unnecessary risk to them.

We provide you with ultrasound services to see your baby moving, smiling, yawning, etc. If you want a specialized 2D, 3D, 4D, or live ultrasound you can visit us right now and get it done. We promise you to take care of your baby and you during pregnancy.

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