With Mayo Clinic obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief
Roger W. Harms, M.D.
X-ray during pregnancy: Is it safe?
Is it safe to have an X-ray during pregnancy?
from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
It may surprise you, but having an X-ray during pregnancy is generally considered safe. In most cases, the benefits of an X-ray during pregnancy outweigh the potential risks.
When you have an abdominal X-ray during pregnancy, your developing baby is exposed to radiation. If radiation causes changes in your baby's rapidly growing cells, it's possible that your baby could be at a slightly higher risk of birth defects or illnesses, such as leukemia, later in life. Generally, however, having an X-ray during pregnancy is thought to pose only the most remote risk to a developing baby. Most X-ray exams — including those of your arms, legs, head, teeth or chest — won't expose your reproductive organs or your baby to radiation. A leaded apron and collar also can be worn to block any scattered radiation.
If you need an X-ray, tell your health care provider if you are or might be pregnant. Your health care provider might be able to do an ultrasound instead of an X-ray. In addition, if you have a child who needs an X-ray exam, don't hold your child during the exam if you are or might be pregnant. Instead, ask another person to take your place.
If you had an X-ray exam before you knew you were pregnant, don't panic. Remember the risk is very small. If you had radiation treatment for a condition, however, the risks may be more significant. Share any concerns about radiation exposure with your health care provider.