Are All X-Rays Risky During Pregnancy?

I may need to have an X-ray but I’m 3 months pregnant. Should I wait until after the baby comes or is it OK now?

If your doctor thinks it's necessary — for your own well-being or your baby's — to get an X-ray during your pregnancy, then you should have the X-ray. Most diagnostic X-rays emit low levels of radiation that would be unlikely to harm your baby.

A developing fetus is sensitive to the effects of radiation because its cells are rapidly dividing. Radiation could potentially cause changes in these cells, increasing the risk of birth defects or certain illnesses later in life. But the risk to the fetus depends upon how far along the pregnancy is and on the type of X-ray done. Dental X-rays, for example, aren't much cause for concern because the X-ray area is far from your uterus. In general, though, if you can safely wait to get an X-ray until after your baby is born, then that's probably best.

Make sure that all of your health care providers (including your dentist and the X-ray technician) know about your pregnancy before you get an X-ray. Sometimes other tests that don’t emit radiation, such as ultrasound, can be done instead.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009

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