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Getting X-Rays During Pregnancy

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Are X-Rays Safe During Pregnancy?

Health experts say that X-rays are probably safe during pregnancy. Most diagnostic X-rays emit much less than 5 rads (the highest amount that experts say is OK during pregnancy). Different imaging studies use different amounts of radiation, and the direction of the X-ray beam also affects the possible exposure to the fetus. Dental X-rays, for example, aren't cause for much concern because the X-ray area is far from the uterus.

If your doctor thinks an X-ray is truly needed during your pregnancy — for your own well-being or your baby's — it's very unlikely that the low levels of X-ray radiation used will be harmful. But if you can do so safely, it's best to wait to get a non-urgent X-ray until after your baby is born.

What Else Should I Know?

Researchers believe that the risk from radiation during an X-ray is more serious for the fetus than for the mother. That's because the baby's cells are dividing at a rapid rate. Make sure all your health care providers (including your dentist and the X-ray technician) know about your pregnancy before you get an X-ray. Also make sure that your stomach is covered with a lead apron.

If you're concerned and would rather not get an X-ray during pregnancy, your doctor may be able to use another imaging method, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or ultrasound. Discuss the pros and cons of the different tests with your doctor.

Date reviewed: January 2023