The Risks Of An X-Ray During Pregnancy

The benefits and risks of x-rays during pregnancy

X-rays have been used for over a century helping physicians diagnose and treat a wide variety of ailments. It is a way of seeing images inside the body that otherwise would require the surgery. First discovered in 1895 by Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Roentgen, the x-ray has become an important part of modern medicine and a household word the world over.

As with most tools and treatments in the medical world today, there are benefits and drawbacks of the different procedures and the x-ray is no exception. Most of the concern with x-rays comes from the fact that they use a form of radiation to produce the imaging required to see inside the body. This is especially a concern for pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

Radiation can affect the make up of cells and alter them and this risk is increased with the more a person is exposed to radiation.The amount of radiation a person is exposed to during an x-ray is minimal and the benefits usually outweigh the risks involved. In the past, the only other option in diagnosing some conditions was surgery to view the affected area. The use of x-rays has eliminated many of the incidences where operating was the only alternative.


Before an x-ray is taken, women will be asked if they are pregnant or if there is a chance they could be. This question is asked of all women of childbearing age, so the proper precautions can be taken.Lead aprons are used to protect body parts that are not a part of the x-ray. The use of lead helps shield areas from any unnecessary radiation exposure and decreases much of the risk associated with x-rays.

In general, pregnant women should avoid x-rays if possible. The first trimester is especially important when much of the fetal development is happening. Some of the risks associated with x-rays during pregnancy involve certain cancers and leukemia, birth defects, and low birth weight. The risks of these problems occurring after an x-ray are very small and should be discussed with your doctor if you have had an x-ray or are planning to have one.

The amount of radiation for different types of x-rays varies greatly. Dental x-rays carry a minimal risk to a fetus as the exposed area is far from the reproductive area. The use of dental x-rays has recently been related to low birth weights in babies and as with any form of x-ray should be avoided until after the birth if possible. Having x-rays taken of the arms and legs do not target any major organs and are considered a minor risk. An x-ray involving large body parts or torso imaging increase the risk of radiation exposure to the reproductive areas and are not generally recommended for pregnant women.

Doctors will often use alternative types of imaging when a woman is pregnant if possible. An ultrasound is one popular alternative as it uses sound waves rather than light waves. There is no radiation involved when using ultrasounds and this imaging is commonly used to view fetal growth and spot potential problems with the fetus in pregnant women.

The x-ray has become a useful tool in the world of medicine and has helped in early diagnoses and treatment for a myriad of ailments over the years. It helps physician find potential problems inside the body that previously where seen only through surgery. The risks of having an x-ray during pregnancy are usually minimal and are decided on a case-by-case basis.The decision to have an x-ray during pregnancy should be determined by your doctor after all of the risks involved have been thoroughly discussed.

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