Guidelines for Diagnostic Imaging During Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, new health considerations arise that you usually wouldn’t think about. For example, you might wonder about the safety of diagnostic tests that use radiation. Most medical imaging tests have little to no risk during pregnancy. Understanding any potential health implications will help you make the best choice for you and your baby.

How Does Medical Imaging Equipment Use Radiation?

Select types of medical imaging equipment use radiation to create images of the inside of your body. During an x-ray or CT examination, radiation moves through your tissues, organs and bones differently to create an image. These tests use only as much radiation as necessary to get a clear picture.

Diagnostic tests like MRI exams use other methods. They can use technologies like magnetic or radio waves. These examinations do not use radiation.

Guidelines for Radiation Exposure in Pregnancy

Doctor Presenting Paperwork to Pregnant WomanRadiation affects your baby differently throughout the different stages of pregnancy. Experts measure radiation exposure in grays (Gy) and milligrays (mGy). Any dose of radiation under 50 mGy has no negative effects on a developing fetus. Doses between 50 and 100 mGy could have effects on a fetus between the 1st and 15th weeks. However, experts believe that even these doses would have too subtle of an effect to appear in research.

For doses over 100 mGy, here are the potential risks:

  • Week 1 and 2: Risk of spontaneous abortion
  • Week 3-8: Malformation risks
  • Week 9-15: Risk of diminished IQ or developmental disorder
  • Week 16-25: No detectable IQ risks
  • Week 25 to birth: No risks applicable to diagnostic medicine

The Safety of Radiology During Pregnancy

Most radiology tests cause no radiation exposure or an exposure level that falls well below 100 mGy. Doctors will also only use testing that involves radiation when absolutely necessary. Learn more about the safety of common imaging tests, including x-raysCT examsMRIs and ultrasounds.

X-Rays and CT Examinations While Pregnant

Diagnostic tests that use radiation, such as x-rays and CT exams, expose you to very small amounts of radiation. The radiation levels associated with a test depend on the area of the body and the test type. Examples of exposure levels for x-rays and CT scans include:

  • Chest x-ray: 0.1 mGy
  • Mammogram: 0.4 mGy
  • Lower GI x-ray: 8 mGy
  • Abdomen and pelvis CT scan: 10-20 mGy
  • Head CT scan: 2 mGy
  • Chest CT scan: 7 mGy

MRIs and Ultrasounds While Pregnant

UltrasoundUltrasounds and MRIs do not use radiation, generally making them safe during pregnancy. A technologist should not use gadolinium contrast during an MRI unless absolutely necessary. A patient can continue to breastfeed after they receive the contrast. Some ultrasounds have a risk of raising the fetus’s temperature, but obstetric ultrasounds do not have this risk.

Get Diagnostic Imaging at Envision Imaging

At Envision Imaging, we perform medical imaging for patients with a variety of care needs. Ask our staff what we can do to accommodate you during your pregnancy. Browse our locations to request your next diagnostic imaging appointment. Our world-class facilities, compassionate care and accurate results ensure a pleasant and reliable experience.

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