If you’re pregnant and you need a diagnostic imaging test, like an X-ray, you may be wondering if it’s safe for your baby. In many cases, there’s no need to worry. But it’s important to tell any health care provider, including your dentist, that you’re pregnant before you get an X-ray or other tests that use radiation.
What is radiation?
Radiation is a kind of energy. It travels as waves or particles in the air. Radiation can attach itself to materials like dust, powder or liquid. These materials can become radioactive, which means that they give off radiation. In large amounts, radiation can be harmful to you and your baby.
You are exposed to (come in contact with) small amounts of radiation nearly every day. This radiation comes from natural sources (like sun rays) and man-made sources (like X-rays). These kinds of radiation don’t cause serious harm. During pregnancy, your body protects your baby from most radiation that you’re exposed to every day.
What imaging tests use radiation?
These diagnostic imaging tests use radiation:
- X-ray. This is a medical test that uses radiation to make a picture of your body on film.
- Computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scan). CT scans use special X-ray equipment and powerful computers to make pictures of the inside of your body.
- This test uses an X-ray beam to show a continuous picture on a monitor, like an X-ray movie.
Most of the time, it’s OK to get an X-ray during pregnancy if it’s needed to give your provider important information about your health. But if you’re pregnant and need an X-ray of your belly, your provider may want to wait until your baby’s born, modify the test to reduce the amount of radiation or use other tests that doesn’t use radiation.
You and your provider can decide what treatment is best for you.
What imaging tests don’t use radiation?
Your provider may want to use a test that doesn’t use radiation if you’re pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends using these tests when possible if you need an imaging test during pregnancy:
- This test uses sound waves and a computer screen to show a picture of the inside of your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (also called MRI). This is a medical test that makes a detailed picture of the inside of your body. It uses a magnetic field and radio waves to make the picture.
To learn more about radiation during pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org.