It depends on the type of X-ray you need and exactly how much radiation you’re going to be exposed to. The higher the level of radiation, the greater the risk to your baby. Most X-rays, such as dental X-rays, will not expose your baby to high enough levels of radiation to cause a problem.
The strength of X-rays is measured in rads. Rads are the units that show how much radiation is absorbed by the body. Exposing an unborn baby to more than 10 rads has been shown to increase the risk of learning disabilities and eye problems. But you needn’t worry. Most X-rays are much weaker than this. It’s rare for any X-ray to be stronger than five rads.
For example, the amount of radiation that your baby would get if you had a dental X-ray is only 0.01 millirad. Since one rad is equal to 1,000 millirads, you would have to have 100,000 dental X-rays for your baby to receive just one rad. Here are the figures for other typical X-rays:
- 60 millirads for a chest X-ray
- 290 millirads for an abdominal X-ray
- 800 millirads for a computerised tomographic (CT) scan (although it’s very unlikely you will be offered one of these if you are pregnant)
To keep it in perspective, during pregnancy your baby is exposed to about 100 millirads of natural radiation from the sun and earth.
Although the risk from X-rays is low, your doctor may advise you to postpone getting unnecessary X-rays until after your baby is born. If your doctor feels X-rays are needed for your particular medical situation, don’t worry. The amount of radiation your baby will receive is likely to be well within the safe range. On the day of the test, make sure the radiographer knows that you are pregnant so she can properly shield you.
If you’re around radiation at work, talk to your employer about ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure. You may want to discuss wearing a special film badge that monitors the amount of radiation you receive. These badges can be checked regularly to make sure you and your baby are safe. If you think your employer isn’t addressing safety issues, contact the Health and Safety Executive, the government agency that oversees safety in the workplace.
If you were receiving radiation for cancer therapy before learning you were pregnant, talk to your oncologist about the amount of radiation your baby may have received.
(via Baby Centre)