Most X-ray exams – including those of the arms, legs, head, teeth or chest – won’t expose your reproductive organs to radiation, and a leaded apron and collar can be worn to block any scattered radiation. The exception is abdominal X-rays, which expose your abdomen – and your baby – to radiation. High doses of radiation can cause changes in a baby’s rapidly growing cells. In turn, it’s possible that these changes could slightly increase a baby’s risk of birth defects or certain cancers, such as leukemia, later in life. Remember, however, that the typical dose of radiation associated with a diagnostic X-ray – even one of the abdomen or pelvis – doesn’t pose this risk.
Before having an X-ray, tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. Depending on the circumstances, it might be possible to do an imaging study that doesn’t involve radiation – such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, if you have a child who needs an X-ray, 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 a diagnostic X-ray before you knew you were pregnant, remember that any potential risk is exceedingly remote. If you had radiation treatment for a medical condition, the risks might be more significant. Share any concerns about radiation exposure with your health care provider. He or she might consult a medical radiation physicist to calculate your baby’s radiation exposure.
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